How important are smartphones to shoppers?

Ed YourdonAmericans love their smartphones, and the numbers are there to prove it. A recent survey has indicated that 58 percent of smartphone users check their phones at least once every hour—that, in itself, is a clear indication of how important smartphones have become in our day-to-day lives. While there can be some debate on whether this dependency on smartphones is actually a good thing, there is little to no doubt that there are some activities where having a smartphone can really help in what one is doing. An example of such an activity: shopping.

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just online shopping these smart devices are being used for—people are using their smartphones while they shop in-store as well. Be it to read a particular product’s review, or to check if a product is available in store, or even to just find a really good deal or discount, people are turning to apps on their iPhones and Androids to aid them in the purchases they make. People are especially appreciative of store apps that used location-mapping technology in smartphones to give them information that is relevant to the store they are actually in.

This is an important detail for retailers to take note of. While many have bemoaned the rise of the “showrooming” trend to the usage of smartphones, others have decided to flip the tables and use the possibilities of these devices to their own advantage. After all, surveys have indicated that 85 percent of people who used a retailer’s own mobile app to help shop in a store went on to make an actual purchase while on their shopping trip. A retailer app that is specific, useful and engaging can therefore result in both additional revenue as well as customer loyalty.

The obvious question here, of course, is how does a retailer app become “specific, useful and engaging”? First and foremost, retailers need to understand that the app cannot be a reinterpretation of the retailer’s website for a smaller screen. It has to have its own features, which are interactive, enjoyable and easy to use. The app should offer real advantages for the user—these can range from simple ones like coupons and discounts for using the app, to complex uses like mapping out an efficient and effective shopping route for the user while in store.

Retailers need to also tap into the social aspect of smartphones. People look at their phones as a means to tap into a community of sorts, and a store app needs to make sure that it allows two-way communication to take place. While mobile users definitely want retailers to reach out to them, allowing users to comment and give feedback should also be an integral part of the app experience. Retailers taking the extra effort to create a good app now will certainly see results—after all, nearly half of the population already owns a smartphone, and that number is only going to rise in the future.

If these statistics prove anything, it is that the importance of having a dedicated mobile strategy has never been greater for a retailer. With reports already claiming that shopping apps on smartphones can actually help increase in-store sales, retailers need to evolve with the times to use the technologies available in order to serve their customers in the best way they can. Mobile marketing is yet another indication of the increasingly social and mobile world we live in, and its influence on shoppers cannot be discounted by retailers in this day and age.

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Categories: Consumer Behaviour, Industry Trends

Author:Aby Sam Thomas - Guest Blogger

Aby Sam Thomas is a writer and journalist living in New York City. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and has been published in a number of publications including DNAInfo.com, The Huffington Post, The Indypendent, Untapped Cities and Allvoices.com. He is interested in a variety of topics and has written on themes as varied as arts, culture, technology, religion, current events and more. He can be contacted via Twitter at @thisisaby.

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  1. Going mobile may be the the best thing for retailers this holiday season | the new shopper engagement - November 12, 2012

    […] The study says that 46% of consumers researched an item on their smartphones before going in a store to make a purchase, with 57% of such shoppers declaring their devices to be “extremely useful” during their shopping expeditions. Be it to read reviews, check for discounts, search through a store’s inventory or even to simply look for usable discounts and deals, holiday shoppers are expecting their stores to be, literally, on their fingertips. […]

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