Opinion by Mark Troselj

As omnichannel retailing takes hold in Australia, the rapid growth in ownership and usage of smartphones is revolutionising the way that consumers shop. Devices are increasingly becoming an integral part of their shopping experience: from researching and evaluating, to comparing and purchasing merchandise. Those retailers that fail to respond to the new era of mobility face being isolated and left behind as the behaviour of their customers change.

Consumers are demanding that retailers provide the services and features to support them in their omnichannel shopping process. For years, however, many retailers have skated by with stripped-down mobile sites and an unsatisfying ‘View Full Site’ escape hatch for advanced tasks. Mobile buyers won’t tolerate a watered-down experience any longer. It’s time to offer the mobile shopper the complete customer experience.

For many retailers, however, implementing a mobility strategy can be a headache. It places significant pressure on them to understand and keep up with their customers, while at the same time reducing operational costs, securing customer’s personal data and providing a convenient and customised shopping experience.

Despite the challenges, it’s clear that getting an omnichannel strategy right can deliver substantial and tangible results. But just how prepared are Australian retailers to take this leap into mobile commerce?

We recently teamed up with research firm Frost & Sullivan to understand how retailers are adapting to the growing use of mobile devices as an integral part of the shopping process and to find out what strategies they have in place to meet mobile demand.

The study revealed that smartphones are not being used purely to make an online purchase, but are an essential element of an omnichannel shopping experience that still often involves a physical store. Fifty-two (52) per cent of smartphone users are utilising devices at some stage during the shopping process, an increase from 38 per cent in 2011. Shoppers are using smartphones for researching (29 per cent) and evaluating products (19 per cent), with only four per cent actually making a purchase.

Even though approximately 65 per cent of Australia’s population now owns a smartphone, the Frost & Sullivan study revealed just how unprepared Australian retailers are – less than 30 per cent currently offer a mobile website and only 21 per cent have developed a mobile app for customers. Those that do provide mobile apps predominantly use them to provide information on the nearest store, opening hours and similar information.

To support this new generation of omnichannel shoppers, Australian retailers really need to focus on providing the features and services that meet their customers’ mobile needs. According to the study, the features most valued by shoppers include: free Wi-Fi, stock level information, directions to relevant departments, customer reviews, product information and being able to purchase using their smartphone. Many retailers, however, are still failing to provide the in-store facilities that encourage use of mobile devices by their consumers – only 9 per cent offer free Wi-Fi and 22 per cent have Quick Response (QR) codes.

Mark Troslj is the managing director of NetSuite Asia Pacific & Japan.