Our world is shifting quickly. We have unleashed the beast that is smart tech and it can never be put back. The “the mobile revolution” has taken hold. This isn’t “good” or “bad”, it is just the way we humans are innovating and moving forward into the future. That being said we do have a lot of changes to cope with. Mobile devices changed everything from how we interact with each other to how we shop. The catalyst for this revolution was the ability to deliver better user experience, thus making the user interact with a brand more. This shift in technology is affecting human nature as well as how we conduct business and market to customers.
We use our phones a lot. Too much, probably. Research group Dscout found the average smart phone owner touches their smart phone screen 2,600 times a day! To note just how much we as humans are being effected by our smart phones look at a company called Yondr. They have made a booming business from a product that takes your smartphone away and shifts society, temporarily, back to pre-smart device times. Yondr created a locking bag for your cell phone that is currently used at conventions, concerts, and even in courtrooms. When attendees enter the event, they have their cell phones locked in a bag (on silent) so that they are cut off from the outside world. Why? Because people pay more attention without a phone! Also, they can’t leak information or pictures of sensitive material. The necessity for a locking phone bag shows how ingrained our digital lives are with our physical lives, but what shows it even more is how people act when they lose that digital connection.
Imagine, your phone gets locked down and you enter the event. You see people wandering around, not sure where to go, looking frantically for their friend they lost in the crowd that they can’t just text. You resort to looking for signs to get information about where to go. There are people sitting at the bar literally ripping up napkins, fidgeting with straws, or rubbing their legs awkwardly because they don’t know what to do with their hands. Everyone instantly has ADHD and apparent withdrawals from temporarily loosing use of their phone. The mass un-comfortability with the situation is palpable. Over there are a bunch of people who couldn’t take it any longer packed into a designated “cellphone area” that is exactly like a smoking area but for smartphone addicts. It’s quite a funny spectacle. Most people eventually relax and forget they don’t have access to their phone. This is followed by brief looks of horror, disappointment, and anger as they later reach for their phone and remember it’s all locked up. The shocking thing about this behavior, to me, is that we have only had smart phones for 10 years. Most people for much less than that. How fast we change. I lived for decades without a smartphone and now I’m one of the crowd – lost without it.
We accepted smart phones into our lives out of convenience. At first it was a music player and a phone in-one. Then a camera as well. After that a social media access point. More and more tools came out to the point that we can now ask our phones a question and it answers. The largest sector for profit isn’t music and social media though. It’s shopping. How can we forget the rise of Amazon from an online book retailer to Walmart rival? Newer tools gave us all kinds delivery, coupons, gift cards, and even payment methods through apps. Providing these benefits makes us more likely to shop at businesses who deliver such functionality. The rise of digital shopping tools is here to stay and we merchants must conform.
Shopping apps tell us what we want and make it as easy as possible to purchase a product or service. This trend is great for consumers but can be stressful for merchants. The bar has been raised. Sunday ads in the local paper don’t work anymore. Problem is you own a business, you’re not a digital marketer. How can you keep up with the big brands? Luckily, the rise of digital shopping tools has also made way for companies that help smaller merchants get such tools. Businesses that do not conform will be left behind struggling, and those who embrace it will have the opportunity to flourish, seriously. Imagine increasing sales without increasing employees or overhead. Here’s a prime example of a merchant taking advantage of the new trends – Shake Shack is opening stores in NYC that are cashless and have no cashiers. Order through the app and pick it up at the window. Brilliant! BestBuy allows you to order and pick up at the store and Publix now delivers! These companies are stealing business from others who don’t offer such services.
So, what do you do now? You have no digital shopping tools for your business. Start simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your business with big changes. Start with the basics. Whether you run a restaurant or retail store – get online ordering on your site and an app version that your customers can download. Promote the ordering site and app in store. Have a small discount incentive for the first use of the app. Later you can add more functionality. Maybe a loyalty program for your customers to build points towards coupons or freebies would be good. you can also start sending notifications strait to patrons’ phones, say, when they haven’t opened the app in a week – “What’s for dinner? Joe’s diner! Take home a family meal tonight for $15.99”. This is powerful marketing! When else could you automatically get your brand in front of somebody when they haven’t thought about you?! Best of all this isn’t like paying for Google AdWords where you must keep pouring money in to keep getting results. There’s an initial investment to online ordering and an app but that will more than pay for itself. And once it’s set up, it’s set up.
Our cellphone dependencies aren’t going away. If anything, the addiction is getting worse. From a sociology and human behavior aspect we may be doomed – forever slaves to our pocket computers. Good or bad – one thing is for sure; our tech addiction makes it easier to market to customers. To get in front of customers, your business needs to be popping up on their phone. The best thing you can do your business in 2018 is to get up to speed with mobile sales. The second-best thing you can do might just be putting the phone in a locking bag every now and then to remind you how it is to be… just human.