We are all aware of how technology plays an enabling role in many industries, but having another industry enable technology is not something that one reads about every day. IDC researchers said the use of SMS on basic mobile phones to keep in touch with consumers could support the shift to 3G-enabled mobile phones.

Mr Ivano Ortis, Head-International, IDC Retail Insights, said rather than be held down by basic phones, retail could boost the growth of smartphones. “Retailers should use a mixed-mode approach so that both smartphone users and people who use basic phones can benefit,” he said. Through a correct mix of traditional channels and innovative features like Quick Response (QR) codes, a barcode made up of geometric shapes instead of stripes that smartphones can read, retailers can invite consumers passing by high-traffic locations close to an outlet to take advantage of promotions, he pointed out.

“A mixed approach can be adopted to address consumers with basic phones by promoting the retailer's phone numbers, which can be printed next to QR codes so that those with basic handsets can send SMSes to these numbers. After all, no matter what the channel is, retailer's marketing aim is the same: bring consumers to the store.” People who use such SMSes on their basic phones are expected to graduate to smartphones because scanning QR codes is more convenient than sending SMSes.

Though apps are a ‘hot area' these days, Mr Ortis cautioned that they may not be the way to go for the retail industry. “More than investing on native mobile apps with limited flexibility, retailers operating in India should consider investments for a transition based on a mix of SMS-based marketing and mobile Web sites that are enjoyable with any smartphone,” he said.

Retail is one of India's largest industries and according to a study by AT Kearney, the retail sector in India is expected to touch $635 billion by 2015. In a press release issued earlier this month, IDC had said customer-loyalty applications and innovations in customer-relationship management will become the key drivers of retailers' ‘go-to-market' strategies.

(This article was published on August 11, 2011)
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