Mobile Myths and New Use Cases

Retailers, pay attention. Here is a great article from McKinsey on mobile shopping myths. I found both myth #3: Showrooming is a show stopper and myth #4: The main value of digitalization is in driving self-service relevant in my own recent mobile experience below.

I first visited my local REI store to drop off skis to get tuned about a week ago, then wandered into the boys section where I saw no less than 50 pairs of little boys ski pants on the rack. I checked the price, and decided I would look around to see if I could do better.

After Christmas, I decided to go back and buy them since having them in hand would mean we could go to the mountain sooner. But when we got to the store, what had been an avalanche of ski pants was now down to about 6 and several of them were girls. After trying to unsuccessfully convince my son the girls black ski pants were no different, we set about trying to get the boys version.

First stop: the REI website – using my mobile phone to hit the REI site while I’m still standing in the store. But the REI mobile site was not exactly friction-free. It’s easy enough to find the product and cart it. What’s not easy is going back and forth with member number lookup and delivery options. You do not actually get a firm delivery date until you choose a method of delivery and cart it. So you have to back up and re-enter all your info if you change. The first screen said Jan 1st but after I carted, it said Jan 3rd. No go.

Second stop: REI store employee. Remember I am still standing in the store. There are many employees around and they are super-helpful. Could they help me find the ski pants locally? Yes, they showed me the inventory of all stores nearby. Great! Can they just transfer the product to this store? No, it would take about a week. Had I tried online? Now I’m wearing my frownie face. Yes, in fact, I had.

Third stop: Instead of wrestling with the mobile site again, we hop in the car and drive to one of the REI stores which was showing 3 pairs in stock. I know this from the sales associate’s computer, not from the mobile site. Again, the store is stuffed with friendly employees who direct me to the little boys section where I finally find and purchase the pants.

So what could REI have done? First, just because I’m using my phone in your store does not mean I’m trying to buy it cheaper elsewhere. See myth #3 above. REI employees did not hassle me about this, thankfully. And further, I appreciate that REI has a speedy mobile website. But, dear REI, I am standing in your store which is a geographic location you should know. This is part of myth #4 self-service and a great time to use contextual data. And in this geolocation, out of stock inventory is a likely use case. Why not start my mobile experience by asking if I’m looking for a specific item? Yes, I can find and use the search, but a bar code scanner would have been even better. And then consider letting me set the delivery date. I need it by Jan 1st, what options can you offer me (including inventory from local stores to which I might drive)?

Customer power and choice is increasing. Company power and voice is decreasing. Mobile is the perfect time to empower customers. A mobile site is not just another website. It is an opportunity to be my best friend by doing what store employees have always done, use their insight to be helpful. Retailers, use your data this year to give your customers - especially your mobile customers - more.