Have you been asked this question, “Would you rather lose your phone or wallet?” and noticed how the answer has changed over the last decade? In today’s world, mobile phones no longer serve the primary purpose of communication.
The new capabilities of mobile technologies have extended to beyond advertising and retail, as providers across all industries are turning to providing digital solutions to their consumers. Today, the role of mobile phones functions farther than just assisting product research during the discovery phase of a purchase. We depend on it daily now for transport services via ride-hailing apps, to improve our shopping experience through interactive technologies, to perform financial transactions such as mobile banking, and even for personal health monitoring through the use of smart applications such as Samsung Health.
Traditional retail is diminishing and that is because people are now buying differently. The evolvement of digital technology has made it an enabler, catalysing the process of engagement of retailers with consumers. Compared to the traditional ways where retailers influence customers through a limited number of options, what defines ATL and BTL is now blurring as consumers today are bombarded with information from a variety of sources, many of them occurring as a result of our changing habits and reliance on the mobile device.
The introduction of augmented reality (AR) tool, for instance, enables retailers to interact with their customers by creating a realistic presentation of a product. DigitalBridge, the company that developed an interior space planning and visualisation tool, conducted a study that reveals “a significant 33% of shoppers would buy a high-ticket item if they could use augmented reality to visualise in their home or chosen context.” A familiar example would be the ‘IKEA PLACE’ application, which allows customers to virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in a given space in 3D and true-to-scale models. For home and lifestyle retailers with premium-priced products, AR is even more so a relevant and important technology to adopt.
Enter mobile payments, online retail no longer serves as a channel to accelerate the purchase process and drive convenience, but also as a means to increase customer touchpoints, instilling loyalty and creating rewards programmes.
Within the last couple of years, we have also seen a big development towards financial transactions happening digitally, particularly in the area of mobile payments. With the ability to pay for shopping, ordering food, and even trading securities in stock markets, China has led the pack, by virtue of its dominant players WeChat and Alipay, towards a cashless society. According Straits Times, mobile payments in China totalled 81 trillion yuan within the first 10 months of 2017, a 40 percent increase from the entire of the previous year. Driving their expansion overseas for tourists abroad, the Chinese can now scan and pay with their devices in places as far as Europe and the USA with just a smartphone.
In this aspect, digital technology has empowered consumers with the convenience of use – no more fumbling for cash or credit cards. The customer has to merely present the device to an NFC reader, or to scan the QR code for immediate funds transfer. The traditionally considered high-risk event of financial transaction online is further mitigated by means of thumbprint verification or facial recognition.
With the rest of the world slowly gaining traction on this mode of payment, it should be noted that digital payment will be the next key development for marketing opportunities, given the volume of transactions and thus a corresponding wealth of customer data a retailer can potentially gather. Since online transactions are rarely ever anonymous, data collected reflecting consumers’ habits enables companies to drive strategies more effectively by triggering the right stimuli with a personalised approach.
Even in healthcare, a dominantly public service sector, digital consumer technology has also taken a sizable progress by means of mobile devices and applications. Although health services were known to be lagging in the area of technology, it should be noted that as of 2017, mobile apps accounts for 50.6%, the main channel where people access health apps. It is estimated to generate a revenue $58.8bn in 2020, according to the same Statista report in 2018.
An example of this is Q UP, a health management application based in India that that allows a user to search and queue for any doctor registered in their network of medical practitioners. It aims to reduce frictions in clinics or hospitals, as patients will come as per given timing rather than waiting in line. In Indonesia, a country where healthcare services are notoriously inadequate, RS Premier Bintaro hospital was able to leverage on technology to reduce the patient turnaround time by 38%. This efficiency driven by technology enables the hospital to handle a higher patient volume today than before.
Future of healthcare, as it seems, is dependent not on advancements in the latest robotic medical equipment, but through innovation in the technologies of the existing devices that we already own.
The headways made in consumer technologies in mobile, as explored above, have transformed lives and businesses drastically in the recent years. Therefore, businesses today need to re-invent to evaluate their operating models — we see too many businesses still struggling with technology adoption at the moment. Rather than waiting on others to hop onto the bandwagon, it definitely takes a certain amount of risk, innovations and investments into mobile technologies to survive as a retailer of the future. Because we now know that between the phone and the wallet, which is the more treasured asset to the consumer.