4 Ways Smartphones Are Changing Consumer Shopping Behavior

August 25, 2011

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Two-thirds of smartphone or tablet owners have used their devices to make purchases and more than 80% have used them to help in the purchase decision, according to the new L.E.K. Consulting Mobile Commerce Survey.

The survey also found that 39% actually make purchases with their handheld devices at least every month (excluding music and video downloads), with 60% using smart phones to research purchases each month in a variety of ways. L.E.K. divides these two groups into “Active Mobile Consumers” and “Mobile Window Shoppers.”

The survey also identified four trends that businesses should monitor:

1. Price Harmonization: During the past six months, more than half of Active Mobile Consumers surveyed reported using at least one mobile coupon app (e.g., Coupon Clipper), nearly one-third checked a pricing comparison tool (e.g., RedLaser), and 29% tapped a loyalty or similar tool (e.g., Shopkick). And they did this while standing in store aisles.

In other words, consumers have the necessary price information at their fingertips so harmonization is now essential.

2. Deeper Customer Relationships: More than half of Active Mobile Consumers are willing to share their location with brands in exchange for real-time offers when they “check in” via Foursquare or similar geolocation-based apps, which is twice the rate of Mobile Window Shoppers. And 37% of Active Mobile Consumers are willing to have brands track them all the time in order to receive special deals.

However, brands must provide the right incentives to keep mobile consumers engaged and willing to share certain information. Marketing tactics with an immediate payoff resonate strongly with this consumer group (e.g., coupons, discounts, rewards or loyalty points).

3. Social Media Influence: Active Mobile Consumers are much less influenced by traditional information sources than their older counterparts. Instead, they turn to independent reviews, friends and family for recommendations before making purchases; and mobile puts these powerful influences in the palm of their hand in the aisle.

4. Flash Retailers: The immediacy of mobile shopping creates new opportunities for consumers to keep up with the latest deals on flash sales sites like Gilt Groupe and Rue La La. More than 40% of Active Mobile Consumers use flash sites, which is more than twice the percentage of Mobile Window Shoppers.

Flash sites are also disrupting the market by capturing share of planned purchases from other channels.

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