Recently, we started a discussion on our LinkedIn group, the Parker Avery Retail Leadership Forum about Saks Fifth Avenue’s approach to omnichannel. We like how Saks understands the entire picture – that it is a people, process and technology puzzle, not just a focus on technology. This generated a comment from one of the group’s members about Saks’ mobile app – primarily how it should be integrated with the in-store experience and enable store associates to better serve customers. Absolutely. And this got me thinking about one of my favorite retailers, whose mobile app is excellent…except when I’m actually in the store.

Let me explain. I frequently use this retailer’s app to create my shopping list. I’m the type that if I don’t have a list, I will go to the store and come home with bags full of stuff I didn’t need or want, and not one thing I actually did need or really want. (Well…maybe let’s take the “want” out of the equation.) Retailers love this type of customer because these unplanned purchases are often higher margin than planned purchases – particularly these days when anybody with a smart phone is researching prices prior to entering the store. But I digress…

So I’ve made my digital shopping list, and I’m ready to spend money with this particular retailer. Incidentally, I must mention – I’m so loyal to this retailer that I actually drive past several competitors – who are closer to my home – to get to their location. Remember my mobile list? I should be able to just digitally check things off on my smart phone while I’m shopping, right? Maybe even have a special offer pop up for me based on my purchase history? Or even be directed to the location of the item in-store. How great would that be? Ahhh, omnichannel shopping nirvana, right? Sadly, no.

Prior to getting in my car and driving past this retailers’ competition and farther away from my home than I really need to drive, I have printed out a hard copy of my shopping list. You read that right: a hard copy (for those of you under 35, this would be a piece of paper that comes out a device called a printer and it has almost exactly what you would normally see on your mobile screen.) Why would I do a silly thing like that? This retailer’s app is hosted in the cloud. I can make my list first on my tablet at home and then update it on my smartphone during carpool. I can add stuff from the weekly ad, scan items at home and add them, and even add generic items like paper towels. It’s the greatest thing ever…until I walk into the store. Then the app’s lights and glory fade. For some reason, this app does not work in the store. I don’t know if it’s my particular phone, the store’s wireless network or firewall or what, but it just gets hung up and freezes. (Based on comments from user reviews, it’s really not just me.)

So what’s my point outside of some venting because I don’t get the satisfaction of checking off items on my digital shopping list? It’s that the omnichannel experience at one of my favorite retailers is broken. This retailer routinely sends emails and other marketing messages about their mobile app and its great features, yet hasn’t bridged the gap between using the mobile app and the actual physical shopping experience. This is where mobile + physical must come together and create value while the shopper is in a prime buying position and frame of mind. And if they’re using a retailer’s mobile application, chances are good they’re already enrolled in a loyalty program, so the retailer probably has a decent amount of information about that shopper.

And we’re not even talking about using Big Data here (but more on that later this summer*) – this is pure and simple customer analytics using loyalty and transactional information. Use that information to make my mobile shopping experience seamless from when I begin my trip at home on my tablet, all the way through to completing my transaction at the store. Include features and user interfaces that are easy, intuitive and delight your customers. Don’t stop halfway and force your shoppers to create their own workarounds to shop at your stores. They want to give you their business. Thank them by giving them mobile, value-added enablers that are usable anywhere, and provide incentives for your customers to continue shopping with you.

Shop on.

-Tricia

*We welcome your participation in our research study: The Big Deal About Big Data.