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A of couple years ago, a pretty mind-blowing statistic became a reality: There are more active mobile devices on this earth than human beings. According to GSMA Intelligence’s ongoing count, there are 7.66 billion active mobile devices right now vs. 7.3 billion people.

The number of smartphones specifically is growing as well — a fact that’s perhaps less shocking to most ears considering we see smartphones and their effects all around us. According to the most recent Pew numbers, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. And globally, a whopping 6.1 billion smartphones are expected by 2020.

Already, this new era of connection is impacting human life across borders, industries, and more. Just take one of the most basic American activities of all: shopping. The mobile mega-trend is impacting both consumers and retailers in a big way, and it’s happening both in stores and out of them — especially when mobility and analytics collide.

But the move to mobile is really just getting started. As both sides of the shopping equation move towards a more real-time, mobile experience, expect them to fuel one another.

According to Deloitte Digital’s latest study, digital interactions influence around 64 cents of every dollar spent in retail stores — a grand total of $2.2 trillion last year. Plus, another recent study showed smartphones and tablets used before and during shopping influenced 28 percent of in-store sales in the United States alone.

Both these numbers are growing more rapidly than originally expected — both a cause and an effect of the mobile transformation.

Mobile is increasing conversion

Consider retailers planning their marketing budgets, for instance. In the past, retailers have sometimes found themselves prioritizing the old-school print-media cycle simply because that’s the way things have long been done. Now, retail analytics are helping companies visualize the marketing channel and are proving the importance of online ads, search, and a focus on mobility. In fact, Deloitte showed that “consumers who use digital while they shop convert at a 20 percent higher rate compared to those who do not use such devices.”

The mobile mega-trend is helping retailers really beef up the conversion rate of shoppers, too. With the omni-channel boom, customers have grown accustomed to knowing exactly which items are available regionally and when a product may be ready to be picked up at the nearest store — companies are exposing product counts on websites, mobile apps, in-paid advertisements and even the exact location of the product down to the aisle and bin at a specific store.

Data is vital if you want the mobile shopper

While this practice can improve the customer experience, it can also create problems if data is inaccurate. Because inventory data lives in many different places within the omni-channel, it is critical for retailers to be able to blend and understand that data minute by minute.

Tableau.FJ8A3678That brings us to an important point: Mobile isn’t just for shoppers or employees on the floor. Merchandisers can also leverage real-time inventory data to power automatic replenishments, adjust orders according to sales spikes, and understand the flow of inventory within the company’s pipeline. With so much at stake, even those working in back offices and distribution centers can no longer rely on desktop paper reports alone. They, too, need data in hand to make on-the-fly decisions about sales, inventory, labor, supply chain demand and operational efficiency.

Whether we’re talking about retailers or shoppers or even the supply chain, working with live mobile data on a daily — or even hourly — basis is the new normal. As all parties continue to use mobile more, the shopping experience will be transformed at an even faster rate.

Jeff Huckaby is Market Director of Retail at Tableau.

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