Mobile Shopping Beyond The 'Showroom' Effect

Tablet-Shopping-basketThere is nothing very surprising anymore about the statistics tying smartphone ownership to the retail experience. The arguments over the reality and nature of "showrooming" have become the dominant theme this past year in mobile. And Nielsen’s latest survey of "mobile shoppers," which I take to mean those who use their devices for one or more shopping activity, just adds more metrics to the fire. According to the company, 63% of this smartphone sub-segment are using their phones to check prices, compared to 56% of tablet owners.

But what is more striking about the Nielsen numbers is the breadth of shopping activity employed by smartphone mobile shoppers. The smartphone store look-up is routine, used by 78% in this group. But also very popular are the more ritual shopping functions like using them for shopping lists (40%), pre-purchase research (63%) and using a mobile coupon (39%). It is these other habits that I find even more interesting because they are routines that feel more woven into everyday habits. The industry keeps waiting for the mobile "wallet" to emerge, in part because it is tied to payment itself. But rituals like making the shopping list and clipping coupons are arguably a deeper and more elongated behavior that offers both product marketers and retailers even more opportunity to serve and market to the customer.

The shopping list is the place where people are focused on product needs and decisions prior to being in-store and where both information and alternatives can be pushed. Tying something as simple as the shopping list to in-store mapping and couponing could be devastatingly effective. Crafting a shopper’s journey in-store, aisle to aisle, and highlighting all of the deals most relevant to their declared needs certainly could appeal to the FOMO (fear of missing out) impulse.

Nielsen also compared smartphone to tablet behaviors among mobile shoppers. Not surprisingly, the larger screen is king of commerce, with 43% of these folks having purchased a physical item on a tablet compared to 27% of shoppers who have used their smartphones for tangible goods. And tablets are, of course, strong in researching items before purchase (68% versus 61% for phones) and reading reviews (53% versus 45%). But it is striking how much both devices have become "buddies" we use to access the opinions of others.

One metric to watch among tablets, I suspect, will be in-store activity. Thus far we have seen tablets as stay-at-home devices, and the current metrics bear that out. Only 10% say they use them for mobile couponing, and 16% for shopping lists. As the seven-inch tablet format proliferates this holiday, one behavior worth tracking will be when portability becomes mobility and more people start packing that mid-sized screen outside of the home.   

"Tablet in Shopping Basket from Shutterstock"

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