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The CONNECT: Mobile Innovation Summit took place in mid-August in Chicago. The emergence of the connected mobile consumer was the conference’s overall theme. Throughout the event, speakers talked about the impact of mobility on various aspects of the commerce experience, including payments, marketing, loyalty, security and privacy. The conference explored many of the opportunities that retailers and restaurants have for leveraging mobile and digital channels to build their brands, increase sales and improve customer engagement.

Below were key takeaways from the conference:

The Connected Consumer Emerges

Mobile technologies are increasingly impacting every stage of the consumer’s shopping journey from personalized promotions to in-store price checks to mobile payments. Today’s consumers admit that they can’t live without their mobile device, according to the “Trends in Consumer Mobility” report commissioned by Bank of America. For many emerging market consumers, the mobile phone may have actually provided the first connection to the internet. Consumers are spending more and more time on mobile devices and increasingly more money through these devices. The race is on to control the flow of data and cash that is moving across these billions of smartphones and online and physical locations. It was the surge of mobile phones — namely smartphones — that ushered in a new hyper-connected consumer. The importance of the mobile devices to commerce is due to the context these devices provide around the entire shopping experience no matter where the consumer may be shopping. For the first time, retailers and restaurants can connect with a particular consumer before, during and even after a sale.

Increased Personalization

Inherently, the mobile phone is the most personal device in any consumer’s possession and thus enables companies to connect with consumers on a personal level. While mobile naturally enhances the connections for payment brands and retailers that consumers interact with daily, mobile also enables a stronger or even first-time connection between with the consumer and consumer packaged good manufacturers, which are the furthest removed from the purchase decision. In one example, Hillshire Brands leveraged mobile devices for a test campaign in 2014, in which it used beacon and geofencing technologies to send consumers coupons upon entering a store in order to increase brand awareness and sales of its American Craft Link Sausages. The campaign delivered a 20% increase in purchase intent for those who received the message. This type of success has retailers, restaurants and brands all clamoring to embrace mobile technologies in order to foster relationships and create a win-win experience for the organization and end-consumer.

Mobile’s Influence on Purchase

Mobile not only bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds of commerce, but it also impacts all aspects of commerce, including in-store purchases.  Truly, mobile is at the heart of every channel. In fact, smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely than non-smartphone shoppers to buy something in store, according to a report by Deloitte entitled “The Dawn of Mobile Influence.” The same study found that mobile influenced 5.1% of all in-store sales in the US in 2012. Deloitte projects mobile’s influence will grow exponentially in the coming years thanks to the rapid uptake of smartphones, the increased adoption by shoppers and improved mobile functionality for retail applications. By 2016, Deloitte projects that the smartphone will influence about one-fifth of all in-store sales. Mobile engagement is no longer an option; it’s a must-have for any brand wishing to compete in this new environment. Mobile marketers will likely reach these mobile consumers through a variety of tools, including location-based marketing, personalization, push notifications and mobile wallets.

Payments May be the Last Brick

When considering the consumer’s journey to purchase, a lot more is involved than just payments. The reality is for many of the retailers and restaurants executives in attendance, going mobile may not mean mobile payments — at least for now. James Lux, who helped to launch a mobile app for the Boston-based Boloco burrito chain back in 2011, urged those in attendance to start simple and focus on the key functions that guests desire most, which may include functionality such as a location finder, menus or nutritional informational. Lux is now vice-president of information technology for the Boston-based salad and sandwich chain Cosi Inc. He said that mobile ordering can be of very high value for many restaurants, but added that this functionality needs to be integrated into the POS terminal, use elements like photos to keep the app’s interface simple and lastly offer consumers the ability to favorite items in order to allow for one-click mobile ordering. For those eager to move into mobile payments, he said the offering much be frictionless, secure, fast and easy to use. At the end of day, mobile technology should be used to solve problems that exist rather than chase — or even go so far as to create problems — that were never there.

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