Retale success indicates shift in mobile thinking

Retale is looking to bring back an old friend for retailers: the circular.

Shoppers are no longer turning to newspapers to find coupons and deals. However, Retale President Pat Dermody believes there is still life in that format, albeit with a little updating.

"If you speak to retailers, they want to support the idea you can drive a consumer into the store with the knowledge of multiple things being on sale or a good value – and they have a vested interest in preserving that vehicle," Dermody told PYMNTS. "The problem is they have long depended on a distribution methodology that is in decline."

Retale's solution has been to use location technology and work with its advertising partners to build a mobile app that can send shoppers deals for stores near them. No need to get ink on their fingertips. That strategy has been borne out so far, as the app went live just 18 months ago and already has nearly 4 million users.

The location-based offers approach certainly isn't anything new in the realm of mobile retail. But, its success in the case of Retale does show that mobile is coming good in a much more specialized way than might have been anticipated. The last few years have been filled with predictions of the death of brick-and-mortar stores, and yet they're still around. Some retailers that used to be exclusively digital are even getting in on the fun themselves.

For Dermody, it comes down to a developing perspective on how mobile works in the modern omnichannel shopping process.

"Five years ago, people weren't anticipating customers would traverse freely between screens," she said. "We started to see the tipping point at holiday 2013. People thought mobile was going to be a natural extension of e-commerce—but the ecosystem has realized that it is much more…It's a browsing, shopping and research tool."

The trend is seen in the numbers, too. Last month, Deloitte research found that digital touchpoints have an impact on 64 percent of in-store purchases, a huge jump over the 14 percent influence they had just three years ago.

Despite the impact, Kasey Lobaugh, Deloitte Consulting principal and Deloitte Digital's chief retail innovation officer, argued that many retailers still miss the point with their digital initiatives.

"Retailers often use the wrong metric—e-commerce sales—to indicate whether their digital strategy is working," he said. "… Retailers that prioritize and design digital functionality with the sole purpose of driving sales in the e-commerce channel marginalize the consumer experience and risk ceding authority to competitors."

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