||Dialing for Deals: Mobile to Play Key Role in Holiday Shopping
Last year at this time most retailers were caught unprepared for the massive mobilization of their customer base.
Once it became apparent that the shopper in Aisle 5 was using her smartphone to scope out the quality of products, find better prices and even order from a rival right in the brand's own store, things changed quickly.
Forget the "year of mobile" blather; 2011 has been the year that retail scrambled to craft apps and mobile Web sites that would recapture customer loyalty before some mobile startup snatched it away.
We're about to see how effectively these companies prepared for holiday 2012, because, according to Mediabrand's Shopper Sciences consultancy, 48% of smartphone-owning shoppers surveyed plan to use their phones more for holiday shopping tasks this year than they did last year. They say that key shopping behaviors -- like product code scanning -- are up 300%.
While online research will continue to drive people into stores, mobile is aligned with bottom-of-the-funnel operations at retail. The phone is now seen by smartphone owners as an in-store assistant. In its survey of 1,055 American adults in mid-October, Shopper Sciences found 39% owning smart phones, only slightly less of a penetration than Nielsen recently cited (43%). Among those smartphone owners, however, a majority (57%) had already used their phones to look up product information in the last six months. More than half (52%) had compared prices, and 47% had searched for coupons. Scanning behavior was on the rise, with 43% having snapped either a product barcode or a mobile 2D code.
Clearly the smartphone is going to have a demonstrable effect at retail, as mobile shopping behaviors become more detailed and integrated with the final buying decision. We already have 40% of smartphone owners using their devices to check store inventory, for instance, Shopper Sciences says. Almost as many (49%) have redeemed a mobile coupon. And perhaps most revealing, almost a quarter of smartphone owners in this survey (24%) say they have already made a purchase on their phones.
Most remarkable to me is how tightly clustered the major shopping-related behaviors are in this survey. Close to half of smartphone owners are already comfortable with some of the most powerful in-store mobile activities. In other words, in designing apps and sites for customers, it is hard to imagine a retailer going too deep and offering its customers too much.
The rules of simple design and usability must always apply, of course. But customers appear ready to wield incredible amounts of control and power in the shopping experience via mobile devices. The challenge for marketers will be in figuring out how this taste for mobile power integrates with a store's own marketing plans and the capabilities of their own stores and sales forces.
Having store clerks cock their heads in puppy dog wonderment when customers show them their own companies' mobile Web sites on their smartphones is still too common at retail.
(Source: Steve Smith, Mobile Marketing Daily, 11/04/11)