Meet the new mobile shopper: Smarter phones, savvier spenders
Mobile shopping is growing fast. Will it change the way you shop?
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Looking for bridal wear? Track it down on the Brides application and schedule an appointment at a local store to try on your favorite dresses through the app. Running shoes? The Runner’s World application makes it possible to find which stores have your shoe (in your size and style) in stock within 10 minutes – and to put that shoe on hold with the touch of a button.Skip to next paragraph
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Mobile shoppers are 17 times more likely to buy from a nearby store than buy online, says Mark Dixon, vice president of product management at NearbyNow.
At the same time, online retailers are turning their bricks-and-mortar competitors into display cases for their own merchandise, mobile-shopping experts say.
“You’re in Wal-Mart. You see the product you’re looking at cheaper on Amazon,” via a smart phone, says Luke Knowles, cofounder of online coupon distributor Coupon Sherpa, “and you can be physically standing in Wal-Mart and buy something on Amazon.com.”
Not all instantaneous shopping decisions depend on big online retailers.
Kangogift founder Todd Horton hopes to capitalize on the connection between impulse purchases, loyalty to local shops, and the rapidity of online delivery.
Kangogift allows users in the Boston area to purchase gifts from retailers online and then deliver a voucher to the recipients’ phone.
All the recipient has to do is show the Kangogift voucher. In short, buying friends an ice-cream cone or elaborate dinner from a shop along their walk home blends social interaction with Web-based shopping.
Consumers are still skittish, though
Mobile shopping does have its limitations, however.
“Even if I’m comparison shopping across five websites, I don’t know if I’m getting the best price, because there are five more websites and because they are having a sale for three days and their sales price isn’t coming up in my searches.” Panarelli says.
Then there are the usual privacy issues: How much information will consumers give out? Even when consumers surrender their data, clinching a deal through a smart phone still unnerves even some Web-savvy users.
“Nobody I know has bought a TV via phone,” says Dan de Grandpre, editor in chief at online sales aggregator dealnews.com. “For some reason, they couldn’t get over the ledge of buying a large purchase on their phone. They understand that the website is the same website that they would use from their PC, but there is a psychological hurdle still to climb for people not just to comparison shop or find coupons from their phone.”
Companies, too, aren’t yet fully mobilizing their operations, because online sales staff shy away from mobiles’ low overall sales rate and in-store personnel aren’t Web-savvy enough. There’s also the danger that mobile apps will only work with certain smart phones, because writing mobile applications for multiple platforms is expensive and time-consuming, Mr. de Grandpre points out.
But at some point, the technology will prove too convenient to ignore, supporters say.
“I love the way you can bridge the information from the online apps to the real world. For me to take maybe an hour to run errands to go pick things up from stores, that is way more efficient than buying them online and then waiting a week for them to show up,” Panarelli says.
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.