Physical retailers take on Amazon and eBay with their own mobile apps

London recently hosted a retail technology expo at Earls Court. I went along with a few questions in mind.

Smartphones offer price transparency to shoppers. Amazon and eBay enable shoppers to scan products in a physical retail store and order them online more cheaply. How are physical retailers responding ?

I found that retailers have acknowledged the price transparency offered by smartphones and are responding. According to the retail analyst, Bjorn Weber, this area was the biggest in terms of investment from large retailers. Some retailers were bulking up their online presence and adding home delivery capabilities to their websites. He felt that for many retailers this wasn’t going to be a profitable response in the long term. Margins can be pretty slim for online distribution bearing in mind that physical retailers have made large capital outlays for their existing retail outlets. He felt the right response was using smartphones to re-engage consumers and improve in-store buying experience. Several european retailers are doing just that.

He gave several examples.

  • IKEA Spain has a mobile app that uses augmented reality to enable consumers to visualise their homes with Ikea products.
  • Tesco in some international markets allows consumers to scan product QR codes in shop windows to order deliveries when stores are shut in the evening.
  • Jumbo, Swiss DIY retailer is rewarding shoppers for visiting their stores through the shopper’s smartphone. Shoppers get a 15% discount on their baskets.
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