The shopper's latest bargain hunter, their smartphone

Almost one-quarter of this consumers this holiday season will use their mobile phone for some aspect of the shopping experience.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Typically I am concerned with writing about the green-inclined consumers in this blog, but I've now read two different research reports this week pointing to the rise of a different sort of tech-inclined shopper who will have an equally profound impact on retailers and on consumer products companies: the smartphone haggler.

Yes, it turns out that socially and technologically shoppers are about to wreak havoc on the retail industry, just in time for the busiest shopping season of the year.

These are the people that market research firm IDC, along with industry partner National Retail Federation, describe as a mobile shopping "warriors" or a mobile shopping "warrior wannabes." These are people who go to the mall armed with their smartphone, with which not only can they take pictures of products they might want to buy but they can use to make sure that a store is REALLY offering the best price.

According to the IDC Retail Insights division, these shoppers will generate almost 28 percent of the spending during this holiday season. That's roughly $127 billion. Overall, they account for about one-quarter of all U.S. consumers, according to the IDC data.

A separate report from Accenture suggests that close to 80 percent of smartphone users would like to receive money-off coupons on their phones. Far fewer are like to you use one sent to their e-mail account o their desktop computer. Meanwhile 73 percent would love to hear about product-specific rebates as they pass relevant items in a store.

The Accenture survey covered approximately 1,000 consumer in 10 different countries.

It also turns out smartphones could make the shopping interaction a little less social: 73 percent of the respondents indicated that they would prefer to have certain questions answered with their mobile device versus going to a store employee for the answer.

The Accenture retail practice managing director, Janet Hoffman, has this to say about the survey results:

"Smartphones will permanently change the relationship between the store and the shopper. Today's tech-savvy consumer wants a seamless shopping experience across store, mobile or online at a time that suites them. Utimately, this trend will lead to a new definition of the store: purpose, place and size are all up for debate. Already we are seeing some shoppers treating stores more like a showroom to test products and then making their purchase online."

So, all you retailers that forbid photo-taking. Or who hover like bees to honey. You alienate someone wielding their smartphone are your own risk. And, forget trying to disclaim knowledge of in-store versus online inventory. If I can find out the answer before you, why do I need you in the first place?

What do retailers have going for them?

For one thing, even those inclined to bargain-hunt with their mobile phone are worried whether or not it will negatively impact their privacy. So, retailers that focus on privacy closely as they roll out mobile shopping applications will get a thumbs-up and the accompanying business.

Speaking of which, this is a great opportunity for retail companies to establish more personal social relationships with customers or potential customers.

For example, 69 percent of the Accenture respondents said they were aware of smartphone applications offered by stores they shop, and almost half of them have downloaded one of those applications. Of those who did so, almost 90 percent found them "very useful" or "useful." That's a healthy conversion rate.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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