The Stealthy Way Mobile Devices Are Transforming Retail

The digital devices that shoppers hold tightly in their hands help to increase basket size for at least 25 percent of those using digital services, yet are transforming the shopping trip in surprisingly stealthy ways, according to WSL Strategic Retail's most recent How America Shops® survey, "The Shoppers' Guide to Restructure Retail."

The report gauges shopper-reported usage across eight super-digital shopping tools, including click-and-collect (order online-pick up at store), subscription services, digital coupons and online shopping. It reveals that while these tools make shopping easier, less stressful and faster, they also are restructuring shopper expectations.

"Retail and brand marketing have been forever disrupted by digital tools that have reshapedshopping trips. That's no surprise to many," said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. "However, what is surprising is that they are also the foundation of how to restructure and improve retail because they solve fundamental issues that retailers have struggled with for decades."

Among the findings:
  • On average, 25 percent of those using digital services add more to their baskets.
  • Specifically, one-third of the users of click-and-collect and digital coupons said they buy more, while 39 percent of subscription service users do.
  • However, fewer than 20 percent of shoppers use emerging tools such as click-and- collect (15 percent) and subscription services (12 percent). Although these services show the greatest potential for growth.
  • Almost all digital shopping tools, with the exception of personalized offers, generated satisfaction ratings of nearly 80 percent or higher.
The findings are especially striking in light of recent earnings reports. For many merchants, digital channels are generating most of the sales growth. And yet, based on this research, retailers and brands have the opportunity to "restructure sales" in physical stores too if they take advantage of these digital tools to influence behavior and generate loyalty among shoppers.

WSL identified six essential truths that retailers and manufacturers need to consider:

1. Digital is not about disruption. It is about enabling and satisfying shoppers.

2. Sales recovery opportunities are plentiful using digital tools. For example, 40 percent of click-and-collect shoppers say they also go into the store to shop – often on the same trip.

3. While a digital service appears to work for only some product categories for now, it has the potential to pull other categories along with it as shoppers' expectations change.

4. Digital tools are reshaping the traditional trip framework. They have changed the shoppers' view of what it means to stock up, fill in and make quick trips.

5. Personalization needs to be better personalized. Most shoppers do not feel offers are truly for them.

6. Nothing goes away. Sure, digital is the future, but lots of shoppers still prefer paper circulars and walking the aisles.

"Shoppers are using digital tools to solve the tough problems in stores they have had to deal with for years: long lines, confusing shelves and lack of service," said Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail. "Used the right way, retailers will be able to grow sales."