Design & Development

Mobile Commerce Blurs Online, Offline Retail

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets allow shoppers to look for products or compare prices from just about anywhere, including right in the middle of a brick-and-mortar store. These devices are changing how people shop and blurring the distinction between buying online or off.

Recently, Prosper Mobile Insights, an analytics and research firm, reported that slightly more than half of smartphone and tablet owners intended to use the devices to shop during 2012. Similarly, Bizrate Insights, a customer reviews research firm, surveyed Thanksgiving weekend shoppers and found that 56 percent had used a mobile device to check prices. Of those shoppers who did use a smartphone or tablet for shopping, the Bizrate survey found that 13 percent had been showrooming — that is standing in a brick-and-mortar store comparing prices online for a product directly in front of them.

Showrooming, Researching Online

IDC Retail Insights, a market research firm, estimated that showrooming would influence up to $1.7 billion in holiday spending in the United States — more than doubling showrooming’s impact from a year ago.

Finally, Think with Google, yet another marketing and research firm, estimated that 80 percent of 2012 holiday shoppers would research online — many using mobile devices — before making a purchase. About half of shoppers, Think with Google estimated, would look at prices online and then go to a physical store to make a purchase. Some 17 percent of holiday shoppers would visit a physical store and then make an online purchase, perhaps, using a mobile device from inside of the store. About 32 percent of 2012 Christmas shoppers would look for products online, visit a store to confirm the product was, in fact, the one they want to buy, and then make the final purchase online, potentially via a mobile device.

Think with Google also estimated that 48 percent of shoppers would use a tablet device to read product reviews before purchasing.

“The boundaries between offline and online commerce will continue to blur and this will be fueled by consumer engagement with mobile devices, further adoption of new technologies such as augmented reality and strong social engagement, and fast-paced programming to deliver products and services to the consumer.” explained Baruch Toledano, director of product marketing at Magento, the ecommerce platform, in an email interview.

Mobile Should Impact Retail Strategy

As mobile devices continue to become popular tools for shoppers and as the aforementioned line between shopping on the Internet and shopping at the mall vanishes, merchants, whether business purely in the ecommerce realm or multi-channel, need to adjust marketing strategies to recognize these changing shopping dynamics.

  • Get responsive. Retailers must ensure that they have full-featured, responsive website that present themselves well on tablets and smartphones.

  • Consider mobile apps. Either develop or participate with mobile apps built to read bar codes and return price comparisons.

  • Remove barriers to delivery. For ecommerce merchants this means that fast and free delivery will become increasingly important.

  • Track competitors. Merchants all need to ensure that they are monitoring competitive prices.

Also, merchants should begin to work on augmented reality apps that let mobile shoppers purchase what they see in the real world.

Product Videos Could be the Next Mobile Trend

Finally, merchants may want to start including more mobile-friendly product demonstration videos and product review videos on site, as there are some indications that mobile shoppers may prefer video or interactive product information over text. For example, Think with Google said that about 13 percent of 2012 holiday shoppers intended to watch online product videos before making a buying decision.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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