Technology companies and retailers alike have hailed 2011 as the year of mobile shopping. Consumers are fast approaching the tipping point in their embrace of smartphones and tablets to access apps, discounts, price comparison information, and payment mechanisms. According to Email Marketing Reports, mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones became the highest-selling consumer electronic device category in 2011, amounting to 115 million units in Q3 alone — beating out PC, laptop and netbook figures combined.
A much-cited report from comScore found that two-thirds of all smartphone owners have performed some sort of shopping activity on their phones, including comparing products and prices, searching for coupons, taking product pictures, or locating a retail store, and that 38 percent have used their phones to make a purchase at least once. In fact, more than one in three purchasers have used their smartphones to make a purchase while in a store, according to a less-noted finding from the same report.
Thus far, e-commerce companies have had the upper hand in using mobile technology to inflict blows on physical stores. But we are still in the early rounds of this fight. M-commerce may prove to be the salvation of brick and mortar after all. Cyriac Roeding, founder of the location-based mobile shopping app Shopkick, believes mobile commerce provides merchants with unprecedented opportunities to bring personalization and one-on-one personal treatment back to the in-store purchase experience.
Jani Strand, a spokeswoman for teen apparel chain American Eagle, said, “Our customers are rarely without their smartphones, so any engagement that connects with them through these devices tends to be effective.” Indeed, today’s shoppers are so umbilically tied to their phones, according to MasterCard executive Mario Shiliashki, they are more likely to leave home without their wallet or cigarettes. “And I mention cigarettes,” he adds, “because the phone has become more addictive than the most addictive substance out there.”