Meet the new mobile shopper: Smarter phones, savvier spenders
Mobile shopping is growing fast. Will it change the way you shop?
Adam Forrest had no intention of buying anything on Black Friday, the traditional big shopping day that follows Thanksgiving. But when his smart phone buzzed as he lounged around the Long Island, N.Y., home of his future in-laws, he saw an offer he couldn’t refuse: free monogramming and shipping on glasses he had wanted as gifts for the groomsmen in his upcoming wedding.Skip to next paragraph
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Tapping on his iPhone, Mr. Forrest bought the glasses. A week later, they were on his doorstep. Forrest is one of the rapidly growing number of mobile shopping fans.
“I’m able to do it while I’m sitting in the front seat of a car and talking to my fiancée about what we want from Pottery Barn,” he says. “I can look online at prices and compare.”
The on-the-go technology bridges a crucial gap in the shopping experience. Until now, consumers had to choose whether to go to bricks-and-mortar stores or shop online. With mobile shopping, they can do both. In stores, they can compare the price on the store shelf with prices online. Online with a mobile phone, they can find which nearby store has the product available immediately.
“I think the real-time blend of online and stores nearby is inevitable,” writes Scott Dunlap, founder of mobile shopping NearbyNow, in an e-mail. “Online will always compete better on price, nearby stores on service and immediacy. The always-connected consumer gets the best of both worlds.”
David Panarelli, a Web-information architect in Arlington, Va., needed the book “Our Iceberg Is Melting” for a graduate course at Georgetown University earlier this fall. But he didn’t have time to comb through several stores and he couldn’t wait for mail delivery. So he jumped onto Barnes & Noble’s iPhone application, found a store nearby with the title in stock, and bought it online.
Then he went to the gym. In an hour, his phone buzzed. The book was on hold at the local store. Mr. Panarelli could pick it up at his leisure.
While still small, mobile shopping is growing at breakneck speed. This year’s totals have “stunned” Mark Beccue, a senior analyst at market-intelligence firm ABI Research in New York. He originally projected 2009 sales at $550 million; now, he estimates they will hit $1.2 billion before increasing to $2.2 billion in 2010 and $10.7 billion in 2015.
On Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, mobile payments processed by Web transaction service PayPal jumped 732 percent from last year’s total. In February 2008, there were 150,000 registered .mobi websites (the extension for sites designed for mobile users). By April 2009, there were 1.1 million. (Not all mobile sites carry the .mobi extension.)
That would be frothy growth in any environment. It’s particularly striking after the worst recession in decades. Internationally, the growth potential may be even greater, Mr. Beccue says. Of the 330 million or more Chinese Internet users, half access the Web solely from a mobile device, he points out.
Mobile shoppers are blowing away industry estimates for how fast commerce could migrate to mobile devices. How are you using your smartphone? Let us know on Twitter.