Analysts talk about the “digital revolution” or “digital transformation” that is changing the retail world, as consumers use smartphones and tablets for everything from product research and price comparison in the store aisles to purchases.
Retailers in turn are developing mobile apps to provide product information, coupons, promotions or consumer ratings.
None of this is to say bricks-and-mortar retailers are about to go the way of the Sears’ catalog. The total number of sales from mobile devices is still small. But the digital transformation doesn’t seem likely to slow down.
Research by Deloitte suggests that customer research, on their devices, about the products they might like to buy is driving spending in stores, and that the “multiplier effect” of that trend will double between 2010 and 2015.
The number of online shoppers is increasing exponentially worldwide, thanks in part to state-of-the-art smartphones and tablets that are readily available to consumers. However, recent data indicates that many mobile device users could rely on tablets instead of smartphones in the near future, which may affect many online merchants.
According to Adweek, several technology experts have predicted that roughly 75 percent of all online shopping will be done on tablets by 2017. Additionally, analysts expect that 125 million tablet users will use their devices regularly to buy items online over the next few years.
Merchant accounts could become more popular if these predictions come true, as many vendors may invest in top-of-the-line platforms to ensure they can accept credit cards and debit cards from online shoppers. Meanwhile, retailers could also devote additional resources to their e-commerce plans so they can take steps to stay ahead of their rivals.
A recent Google Shopper Marketing Council study revealed that many consumers use their mobile devices to conduct research before making purchases. In fact, data also showed that mobile device users are typically more likely to make purchases at various outlets than those without smartphones and tablets.
The widespread use of smartphones and tablets has become both a blessing and a curse for retailers. Mobile shoppers want instant access to information. When they use their phones inside a store or en route to a retail location, they aren’t interested in doing intensive research. They are preparing themselves to make a purchase and are using their mobile phones as tools to find local deals or to do some comparison shopping in a quick and efficient way. Consumers have become much savvier about shopping thanks to their mobile devices. Many shoppers can now be seen “showrooming” or browsing stores with their smartphones held out to gather information about products before they decide to buy the items online.
Are retailers reacting adeptly and quickly enough to this new breed of mobile consumers who use their smartphones as decision-making tools to guide them through their shopping experiences? As consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to discover what’s around them, retailers need to get smarter about how to use mobile to their advantage by rethinking the offline shopping experience to meet the needs of mobile-empowered shoppers.
Mobile consumers will most commonly use their devices to discover what’s nearby, and then visit the stores in person to do some comparison shopping.
The next step for retailers is to consider geofencing, a technology that can target consumers inside the store by sending offers and promotions to their smartphones when they are entering or nearing a specific area, even down to a particular aisle in a grocery store.
As customers become more comfortable with both the convenience and security of buying everyday items and gifts via their mobile devices, the next growth sector of E-commerce shopping will be in purchasing luxury goods online. This can be everything from high end jewelry, fashion, even automobiles and real-estate.
Retailers have an opportunity to transform the in-store shopping experience by examining the behaviors that derive from the mobile activities of their clients. They need to find ways to give their consumers the local info they want and include location-based offers or deals to reinforce loyalty. However, most retailers are struggling to respond to new consumer demands and they don’t necessarily have the financial means to develop their own innovative business model. Fortunately, there are now convenient and readily available mobile payment and mobile loyalty solutions that retailers can integrate to enhance the shopping experience in their own stores.