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Smartphones and Retail Transparency: Legwork from the Aisle

Posted by Brian Neville-ONeill on Thu, Mar 10, 2011

Smartphone usage while shoppingA quick note to retailers out there: according to our latest CMB Consumer Pulse report your smartphone-packing customers are doing their homework while standing in the store aisle (hopefully yours).  The kind of homework they’re doing is largely dependent upon the types of variables and demographics you’ve come to expect, particularly age and gender.  Men, for example, are more likely to use their phone to check product reviews while women are more likely to look for discounts. If the shopper has an iPhone, they are almost certainly using it to help them make a decision about their purchase – more than 70% of them said as much.

What this tells us is that gone are the days of 2008…when brick and mortar retailers merely had to worry about competing with online retailers when shoppers were in front of a PC.  Once at the mall, comparison shopping involved walking (or worse, driving) to a different store, finding the right aisle & shelf, locating the item, and then checking the price.  For lower ticket items, that’s an awful lot of hassle to potentially save a few dollars.  For higher ticket items, it’s just a lot of hassle. 

No more.  Now, shoppers only need to fire up their phone’s web browser or one of the countless purpose built apps to do all of that legwork.  Really.  All of the legwork.  Our study showed that shoppers were using smartphones in-store to do everything from comparing prices of products and services to making a purchase.

Over the last few years, analysts have warned retailers that stores may become product showrooms where the shopper uses the aisle for testing purposes and is agnostic to where and when the purchase is made.  In fact, some have gone so far as to predict that this type of behavior will “lead to a new definition of the store; purpose, place and size are all up for debate.”  How it all pans out remains to be seen.

But it’s not all bad news for retailers.  In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  If shoppers are becoming agnostic to the in-store experience, it is incumbent upon the retailer to adjust the experience as necessary.  And it’s worth noting the responsibility doesn’t fall just to retailers – product manufacturers need to connect with their distribution partners to “take advantage of opportunities [smartphones] provide for generating sales and improving the customer experience.”  This type of partnership should address signage, packaging, displays, and smartphone based communication strategies that stop the shopper in their tracks.  Going forward, we believe all of these tactics to be necessary elements of retail planning.

 Mobile Shopping report

Download our latest Consumer Pulse report for additional findings around the impact of the mobile shopper.




Posted by Brian Neville-O’Neill. Brian is part of CMB’s marketing team and spends quite a bit of time reading and writing about market research. When he’s not busy doing that (or shopping on his smartphone) he is secretly anticipating the arrival of Battle LA, a soon to be released alien-robot invasion movie. 

Topics: technology research, mobile, Consumer Pulse, retail research