As shopping goes mobile, consumers want it when they want it

New mobile shopping initiatives demonstrate growing importance of 'bricks and clicks'

Walgreens and Duane Reade are testing a new mobile shopping system at stores in New York that helps shoppers make choices by providing relevant product information from a network of friends and experts and then sending them "perks" they can redeem at checkout. The system combines the respective mobile platforms of Pretty in my Pocket and Sparkfly, and L'Oréal Paris has signed on as the first brand partner.

As retail industry futurist Doug Stephens recently told Drug Store News, younger consumers are "conditioned to understand that they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it, wherever they happen to be."

The job of retailers, then, is to ensure they can fulfill that demand. And that's what omnichannel retailing is all about. To a large extent, retailers are already rising to the challenge.

Last week, Kmart announced the launch of "Pay In Store," for members of the Shop Your Way loyalty program. The initiative, part of the retailer's efforts to develop what it calls "integrated retailing," allows customers on Kmart's website to select "Pay In Store" as a payment option and then pick it up at the store. The idea, the company said, is to create a seamless and integrated shopping experience for members.

This kind of integration between brick-and-mortar and digital retail will increasingly be not just an ancillary service, but also a necessary component of any retailer's business, as more consumers become accustomed not to just browsing the aisles, but finding an item, looking up information about it online and — most importantly — seeing what the best deals are. Programs like the one Walgreens and Duane Reade are testing also help to bridge the "bricks-and-clicks" divide.

eBay also has been testing online and mobile shopping initiatives. Some of its programs include installing giant touch screens to allow people to use empty storefronts for online shopping, and eBay Now, which allows customers to order products through mobile and have them delivered anywhere, whether it's a physical address or a park bench.

In the late 1970s, a punk rock band had a song with this lyric: "If I can't get what I want, I don't want anything." But what was then a statement of youth angst is now a part of the reality of retailing as customers have become used to getting what they want on their computers and mobile devices, and getting it when they want it. And if they can't get what they want, when they want it, they won't want anything.

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