Mobile Shopping Being Driven By Forward-Leaning 18%

Cisco is calling them the “Über Digitals” -- that 18% of the U.S. population who are often using mobile devices in-store and as integral parts of many buying decisions. These are the ones to watch, the company says in an annual study of retail shopping behaviors released this week. With a median age of 30 to 34, this most digitally devoted slice of the shopping population has almost doubled since Cisco took the survey last year. They are the ones using smartphones and tablets most often to shop, as well as using the PCs and the ones most likely to use in-store touchscreen and other digital technologies rolled out by retailers to enhance the shopping experience. The online survey of over 1700 adults was being presented this week at the National Retail Federation Expo in New York.  

While overall Cisco found that cross-channel shopping and research has remained consistent year-to-year, these digitally overactive Übers are moving a number of behaviors to devices. Among this bleeding-edge segment, 72% of them shopped for items online before buying them in-store, up from 60% last year. Conversely, showrooming is up for this group, with 59% scoping out products in-store but buying them online -- up from 39% last year. The Übers are fully mobile now, with 70% searching for products on a device while purchasing it in a store -- more than double the rate last year. And almost two-thirds of this group now begin product searches on devices but finish with a purchase via their PC. Again, this is nearly double the rate of last year. For all shoppers, peer reviews online followed by expert reviews are the strongest influences on buying decisions. Advice from friends and family rank a distant third, reflecting the uneven impact of social networks on shopping.  

Cisco cites one key problem for retailers as consumer trust over using personal and transactional data responsibly and to add value to the shopper experience. When ranking six institutions that tend to gather data on whether consumers feel they return value in exchange for personal information (including hospitals, health care, financial, credit card and government), retail came in fifth -- just ahead of Internet companies. This wariness could impede the depth and types of interactions and information-sharing that consumers are willing to have with retail brands. Most shoppers prefer to share only transactional information with a retailer even if sharing more personal data would result in better and personalized service.

But money matters when it comes to data exchanges. A little more than half of both general digital shoppers and the advanced shoppers said they would share more personal information if retailers guaranteed percentage or dollar discounts on their next purchase. Other incentives like applying loyalty points or admission in a club that give priority offers all ranked well below the cash exchange.

Despite the proliferation and use of mobile devices, home email is the way that most consumers -- both general digital users and the Über Digitals -- want retailers to contact them. Even among the most advanced digital users, only 26% said they wanted offers to come to them upon entering a store. Even fewer (13%) want offers as they are going about the store. This suggests that some of the Bluetooth LTE devices like Apple's iBeacons could have a lot of persuading to do before seeing widespread adoption.

As part of its survey, Cisco also tested nine in-store technology concepts for consumer receptivity. Interestingly, the most popular was a smartphone app that pulled together a shopper's offers, coupons, and loyalty points to find for them the best personal price for an item. Among the test subjects, 63% said they would use such an app frequently or always. Less popular, but still promising, was the mobile concierge that greeted them at the door and guided them to the items they wanted. Although it seems to be at odds with the earlier metric showing a low interest in in-store push offers, 42% showed strong interest in this concept.

Shopping gamification concepts were somewhat less appealing, with slightly more than a third showing great interest in a “beat the buzzer” type of limited-time offer or a scavenger hunt in-store. Less engaging still were the concepts of remote consultants that could answer questions on in-store screens or devices. Also, less than a third of shoppers were deeply interested in the “endless aisle” concept that displays in store and nearby inventory of a specific brand.

The takeaway from all of this is that shoppers themselves are raising the bar on retailers. They are accustomed to a higher level of sophistication from their technology than most stores themselves offer. They also know full well that their own data is of inherent value to the retailer. If a store is not putting that personal data to good and obvious use, then they shouldn't be asking for it. I take from these metrics the idea that many shoppers, from the great mass of digitally enabled to the super-digitals, are interested in how technology can enhance the shopping experience. But they are waiting to see retailers prove that all of this stuff will add more value than many of them are already finding from third parties online and in the app stores.

One thing is for sure -- technology innovation can’t do worse than retailers’ own staff. Among the most sobering results from this research was that only 14% of respondents cites store personnel as key influencers in their buying decisions.   

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2 comments about "Mobile Shopping Being Driven By Forward-Leaning 18%".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 14, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.
    People don't like to be annoyed and it looks like bombarding them with "offers" crosses the threshold. It's like when a sales clerk would follow you around the store. Or it's like a constant "close talker" (stalker). Or like flies buzzing in your face you can't swat.
  2. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , January 15, 2014 at 4:42 a.m.
    Very interesting. 18% is a much more credible number for "people who are often using mobile devices in-store [or] as integral parts of many buying decisions" than the very high figures that you sometimes see. For some market sectors, such as electronics or fashion, this fits with our numbers. For others, such as groceries, it seems utterly wrong - almost nobody uses their mobile device when buying tomatoes, except to phone their partner for instructions.