It wasn’t too long ago that you went to the store, looked at what they had, shook your head and bought this one or that one based on something almost entirely arbitrary – maybe it was the cheapest, maybe your neighbor has one, maybe you liked that color the most. Whatever attracted you to that item, it almost certainly wasn’t the opinion of dozens of online strangers, the seal of approval from some massive online retail database, or anything else so concrete.
Plenty of people still shop with the former strategy, but mobile users have taken product scrutiny to a whole new level. Researching reviews and getting second opinions used to be a ritual reserved only for the largest and most important of purchases. Yet now as everyone with a mobile device in their pocket has instant access to libraries of product information and countless reviews straight from the super market aisle itself, every single purchase is subject to previously unfeasible levels of scrutiny.
The Big Implications
As it turns out, mobile technology seems to have an interesting impact on just about every commercial establishment, from shopping to dining to clothing stores to big box retailers. One of the biggest ways we see mobiles’ impact is through the massive popularity of review sites such as Yelp, which provide instant access to information which is often the basis of decision making for hungry customers looking for somewhere to eat, or anxious shoppers looking for a new place to spend.
People are now increasingly likely to involve their mobile device in every facet of their decision making process, from picking the store to shop in on Yelp, to comparing the prices and analyzing the reviews for specific products on Amazon or similar services. We have shifted from the consumer being driven entirely by simpler factors like geographic proximity to a store, in store displays, pricing, and other in store factors, to a climate dominated by consumers informed from outside sources about the products or services they are purchasing.
The Impact of Mobile for Industries
The result of the proliferation of mobile technology has certainly changed the way stores handle their customers and present their inventory. Stores are now forced to strive to offer prices competitive to the online retailers which their customers maybe browsing even while they are within the store. With the constant threat of consumers opting to purchase online (often at a discount,) stores must adapt themselves to providing a quality in store experience which is worth the customers time and effort spent visiting the location.
For many big retailers like Target and Safeway, the fact that almost their entire customer base is wandering the aisles equipped with a smart phone has not come as an issue, but rather an opportunity. Increasingly big retailers offer apps which can be scanned at the register to provide discounts, accumulate reward points, even replace physical paper coupons with a much more environmentally friendly digital alternatively. The digital couponing craze has now reach full bloom, with avid deal seekers eagerly thumbing through the listing of coupons on offer through the interface on their mobile phone.
The biggest benefit to the consumer wielding a smart phone on their shopping trip is quick info. You can Google just about any product and find a ton of information, yet some clever app developers have taken it a step further. Apps are available which analyze product bar codes to provide a wealth of information about any product without ever having to type anything in. These apps can even tell you which foods to eat or avoid when programmed properly to meet your dietary needs, or let you know if you’ve missed anything on your shopping list before hitting the check out.
With all of this in the palm of their hands, it might be hard for shoppers to imagine how they ever navigated the massive labyrinths of the super market without any guide to follow! Yet all the same, the massive additions of the mobile to the ever-changing ways we shop has gone unnoticed by most.
What the Future May Hold for Mobile Shoppers
As we approach the ownership of mobile phones reaching a sort of societal ubiquity, and their utility and place as consumer guides grows, we may see the mobile phone become so important to the commercial ritual as to actually replace credit cards. Mobile payments are something which has been kicked around and toyed with, with increasing successes as big players like Google and Apple move into making the field of mobile payments a reality.
How has your mobile device impacted the way you shop? Let us know with your comments below.