American Marketer


Understanding the potential of in-store mobile media

March 29, 2011



By Duke Greenhill

The luxury retail market is the ideal proving ground for in-store mobile media, thanks to luxury shoppers' demand for higher convenience, better service and unique shopping experiences.

Because of this, mobile integration also offers exorbitant potential to increase sales and enhance luxury brand equity. Luxury designers and brands are beginning to catch on to this, and it will not be long before the way you shop for luxury goods will drastically change.

How do I know? Simple.

The best luxury brand strategies are those that are natural extensions of the consumer experience. Mobile media is, by definition, just that.

Think about the psychological and emotional components that drive luxury retail, and take a look at a few innovations you may see in your favorite stores soon:

Immediate gratification. As a professional luxury brand consultant, I look first at the consumer experience that a new client offers its customers from the moment that shopper approaches the door.

I say “approaches,” because in many cases, the cost of simply putting someone at the door to open it for customers can generate marked increases in store loyalty, sales and brand equity.

The reason is, luxury shopping is about just that: shopping, not the items one buys. And it is the perks, such as having the door opened for you, that make luxury retail experiences different.

High-end customers demand to be immediately gratified by the purchases they have not even yet made, and a personalized mobile experience can add the value to sate that demand.

Mobile should include a personalized greeting when a registered customer enters the store. Also ensure immediate inventory with images of items that fit the customers purchase history.

And do not forget a hybrid in-store/online luxury shopping experience to let the consumer physically shop the store, and through one-click purchasing, select his or her items by smartphone—the purchases will simply be shipped or delivered depending on the customers registered preferences. The possibilities are endless.

Anonymity. Affluent consumers are increasingly drawn to "shopping anonymity."

In this case, anonymity does not mean invisibility – luxury consumers still want to be noticed – but they want equally to feel like their shopping experience is private.

Likewise, the very foundation of smartphone technology is to remain ever connected, but simultaneously, connected in private: private texts, private calls, communication on an exclusive level.

Luxury retailers can easily leverage mobile technology to satisfy this demand with simple innovations.

Take frequent customer rewards systems and personalized promotions. Retailers can determine a profitable purchase-to-discount paradigm, and individual customers could be notified of "specials" on their smartphones upon entering a store via proximity and BlueTooth technology.

Based on customers’ interests and purchase history, personalizing the promotions and linking them to a rewards program will be a simple matter.

Exclusive connectedness and communication is achieved and higher sales, too.

By adding a ticking clock to the promotion – "Valid only for this visit" – the urgency and immediacy of the mobile in-store experience grows.

Social awareness. Luxury shoppers, though interested in anonymity, are social animals nonetheless.

Just like anyone else, they like to know what their friends are buying, which items are best-selling and which items they will be the first on their block to have.

Imagine the possibilities of a friend feature that can provide shoppers with news about what their friends recently purchased—say goodbye to the days of showing up at a party in the same dress as a friend.

A hierarchy of top-selling items and reviews would also greatly affect purchase decisions. And contrary to intuition, studies show that affluent shoppers are perhaps more influenced by value items (read: "on sale") than middle-class ones—but they do not like to appear to be concerned with prices.

Immediate access to sales, specials and prices on the privacy of their smartphones would drastically enhance consumer experience and store revenue.

Geographic awareness. One of the hottest frontiers in in-store mobile technology is geo-location service: how to leverage mobile phone GPS technology.

The most basic integration of this technology—and doubly exciting since it also feeds a basic human instinct to know where one is geo-spatially—are map features.

It is key to provide shoppers with a quick and easy way to navigate stores and find what they are looking for, or perhaps find the nearest store with the item they want in stock.

Expect to see mobile integration increase exponentially in luxury stores this year, but do not worry about the jobs of the sales associates just yet.

In-the-flesh assistance is still the crux of customer service, and customer service in the luxury retail business is tantamount to success.

But mobile technology will no doubt change the way you shop, and probably sooner than later.

Duke Greenhill is founder/CEO of Greenhill + Partners | The Idea Factory, New York. Reach him at