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Apr 19, 2010 | 3 minute read

Driving Offline Sales With Your Mobile Application

written by P Sheldon

Many retailers are investing in mobile apps, not primarily to drive transactions directly from this new channel, but to drive offline sales. Their focus is not to get customers to buy via their mobile phone but to extend the phone to become an essential part of their offline shopping experience. This post will explore 9 features that all retailers with physical stores should consider including in their apps to drive offline sales.

1. Store Locator

Store locators allow the mobile customer to easily locate the nearest physical store to them. A phone's native GPS and map capabilities provide an efficient and fast way for the customer to locate and get directions to the nearest stores and find store information such as opening times, events, phone numbers and store features.

Barnes and Noble allows customers to find a store using GPS, see the distance to the store, view the store features and locate the store using Google maps. Though it's great functionality, B&N could have embedded the maps into the App so the user doesn't need to exit the application to view the map.

2. In-Store Availability

In-store availability allows the mobile customer to check in real time if a product is in stock in a physical store. This is very useful when one store is out of stock, allowing the shopper to self serve and find out immediately if a nearby store has stock. Additionally adding the ability to reserve the item guarantees it will still be there when the customer picks it up.

Barnes and Noble allows customer to reserve an item and pick it up later.

3. Social Media

Integrating social media into your app allows customers to virally promote your products via their Facebook account.

The Gap allow users of their Style Mixer app to upload their outfit creations to Facebook.

4. Product Finder / Search

Some retailers are providing advanced product finders using the embedded phone camera. Customers can snap pictures of a barcode or the cover of a book / DVD and the app quickly identifyies and displays the product. For online retailers like Amazon, this feature allows customers in a store to do product price comparisons. For retailers with an offline presence, this feature allows the customer to quickly look up additional details on a product (such as ratings and reviews) whilst browsing a product in your store.

Amazon (left) and Barnes and Noble (right) both provide camera based product identifiers.

5. Persistent Shopping Cart

According to Forrester Research, 16% of all retail purchases are researched on the Web. By providing a persistent cart between web and mobile app, your customers can research online and then use the app as a virtual shopping list whilst in your brick and mortar stores. The synced cart in their mobile app acts as reminder of what they came to the store to buy.

The cart, saved items and wishlist in the Amazon mobile app is always in sync with the customers web cart, saved items and wishlist.

6. Ratings and Reviews

Enable customers in your brick and mortar stores to access your online ratings and reviews directly from your mobile app. This data is usually not available in-store, so provides an excellent way for shoppers to ratify impulse purchases. Adding a barcode scanner using the embedded camera would enable customers to quickly view reviews via your mobile app.

Amazon (left) and Best Buy (right) both expose online reviews in their respective mobile apps.

7. Product Research

Ensure that all the online product content data is available via your app. Include features specs, descriptions, alternative images etc and all other data that might not be available on the shelf or visible on the product packaging in the store.

Ocado (left) and Amazon (right) both expose rich product content data that is likely not available on the shelf or product packaging.

8. Flyers / Newsletters

In-app flyers and newsletters provide an excellent way to drive shoppers to your brick and mortar locations. Shoppers can check the latest flyers whilst commuting into town for a shopping trip.

Target (left) and JC Penny (right) both expose weekly flyers in their respective mobile apps.

9. Offers

Create a deals or offers section in your app to allow in-store shoppers to quickly find the deal of the week instead of walking the isles of your store to find the bargain they are looking for.

Best Buy lists all their weekly deals by category in their mobile app.

This is the third in a series of 4 posts on mobile applications. The final post will address Marketing Your Mobile Application.