Source: Geo Marketing A few years ago, the forecast seemed dismal for brick and mortar retail locations. Bourgeoning e-commerce sites were soon complemented by mobile commerce and applications and it felt as if we would never have to enter a mall again. But there was a limitation to commerce via a device that we were not discussing in the early days: shopping online does not offer the same emotional experience as shopping in-store and being greeted, doted on. It also does not offer the same form of escapism that many sought as we entered harder financial times and the ability to touch, feel, and try on became more important as consumers were more cautious of spending. Today, smartphones have bridged the online and offline shopping experience and, as a result, created a new standard for what we define as the in-store experience. Innovative Mobile Experiences Retailers have been forced to become digitally savvy to keep up with consumer expectations as our society has become more and more technically advanced. Shoppers are now receiving flash sales, daily deals, and discount codes that can be redeemed in the store or online. Research shows that most consumers will research products online prior to traveling to the physical store location to purchase. They know they can buy it online, but they still want that emotional experience that is offered in store by handling the product. Of course, the retailer has the responsibility now to keep inventory up to date so that consumers know in advance if the store they are about to enter has the product in-stock. Walgreens has been quite innovative in how they are now using mobile to drive the in-store experience. The pharmacy is using special cameras throughout its retail locations to add a 3D view to its in-store maps. Once merged with individual floor plans, customers can then navigate their local shop with a more detailed view via the app. Additionally, they are served contextual discounts for items that they pass through the aisles. This is an excellent illustration of how mobile can help retailers to better engage consumers and to customize the shopping experience at the local level. As more retailers begin to follow Walgreen’s example, this type of in-store shopping experience is bound to become the norm, rather than an exception. What Consumers Expect Today On a personal note, it is funny to think about how my own impression of in-store experience has changed. I no longer expect or need to be greeted by a happy staff member at the door. I am not there to browse at my leisure. Instead, I have located the items of interest online – and quite possibly already reserved it for pick up – and I am looking to get in and get out thanks to the pre-shopping that I am able to do on my phone. More and more, I am even able to self-check out making the experience even more seamless. The future isn’t necessarily about the fear of the decline of brick & mortar stores but about how retailers can create new experiences using mobile and digital that tap into consumers’ emotions and at the same time provide convenience and efficiencies.  The Mobile Commerce Playbook, PSFK and Braintree, April 9, 2015 *Lara Mehanna is GM US, VP Sales & Business Development of SONATA, the first global mobile advertising platform focused on connecting online advertising to offline results. Previous to SONATA, she spent 2.5 years as General Manager of Mobile at DataXu where she was involved in building out omni-channel solutions and the Company’s mobile go-to-market strategy. Prior to DataXu, Lara spent almost four years leading mobile market development for Jumptap (acquired by Millenial Media), helping to build the mobile ad network and managing network and publisher relationships. Lara started her career in search and digital marketing, running the global search product/business team at AOL. Lara also started and is co-head of the local Women in Wireless chapter in the NYC tri-state area where she has successfully built an organization of volunteers that support, empower, and mentor women in the mobile and digital industry, created a giving back initiative to further assist women in need, and built a fundraising program that has enabled multiple events per year attended by many in the mobile and digital industry.**Editor’s Note: Our “GeoMinds” opinion series features posts written by outside contributors from all parts of the GeoMarketing community who want to share their views of the trends, issues, problems, and solutions changing the online-to-offline advertising and marketing landscape. To become a contributor, contact us at email@example.com.