mobile.jpgRegardless of where you’re shopping or what you’re shopping for, mobile devices have revolutionized the way we shop, and as more merchants jump on the store app bandwagon, it’s going to change even more. Retail mobile apps allow merchants to provide their customers with a highly personalized and immersive in-store experience unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. Customers have come to expect this level of service, thanks to our ever-more-connected world, and they are beginning to use these apps in stores to do price comparisons, redeem coupons, earn loyalty points and even view product ratings and reviews.

Merchants are starting to recognize this trend and the customer’s desire to have store-based apps on their mobile device, and are developing their own apps. The main goal is to drive more in-store sales by helping to influence customers’ purchases, not only while they are in the store but even before they enter the store. A 2014 Deloitte study showed customers who use mobile devices convert at a 40 percent higher rate than those who don’t, and 22 percent said using their mobile devices lead to spending more than they planned. Below are some ways mobile store apps are changing the way merchants interact with customers:

Increase in-store traffic. Beacons and geo-tagging are being used more and more to create a digital perimeter around certain spaces, allowing stores to send SMS push messages to consumers who have signed up to receive such messages. The messages may offer a special discount only for users of a certain store’s app or for shopping on that particular day. They may even include offers for food and drink items at mall restaurants or food courts. These push messages have been shown to increase foot traffic and generate more sales (as the customer is already in a buying mood), while creating a feeling of exclusivity with the customer, as only those who have the store app can receive these special offers.

Collecting information about customers. Data collected from store apps can be a gold mine to merchants. It can help them better understand the products and brands their customers like, their preferences, their location, and more. Obtaining this information can help merchants create a better shopping experience for all of their customers, not just the ones who have downloaded their apps. Because some customers may be skittish about sharing information with businesses because of email spamming and the potential for identity theft, make sure you do not share whatever data you collect with anyone else.

Shorter lines. A store’s mobile app may actually enable customers to check out themselves. Using the smartphone camera, a customer can scan items and pay for them (with a mobile wallet, of course) from anywhere in the store, with no need to walk up to the register. This frees employees to better interact with customers as the store would need fewer checkout lines, and it frees up valuable floor space for more merchandise or product displays. It would likely reduce the in-store chaos on huge sale days like Black Friday and Christmas Eve, as well.

Better overall service. A store app can actually increase the store employee’s ability to help the customer by providing them with the customer’s profile, purchase history and product preferences when the customer walks in, allowing the employees to offer a truly customized shopping experience. A store app can also be used by the customer to request help – no more wandering out of the fitting room to find an employee to bring another size or color to you. Even if a customer just has a question, she can use the app to find an employee that can answer it for her.

Smartphone apps have come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and they are creating new and innovative ways of interacting with the world around us. They have become particularly useful when shopping, as they provide both the merchant and the customer with creative ways of interacting with each other. As apps continue to evolve, the shopping experience will continue to become more and more personal, making each customer feel special.