Smartphones Moving Front & Center in Shopping Process

The smartphone is becoming the hub of mobile commerce.

As I spoke with numerous technology suppliers and roamed through countless exhibits at the International CES show in Las Vegas this week, it became clear that mobile is becoming central to much of the new tech universe.

With consumers obviously carrying their mobile devices with them everywhere they go, many companies are creating products to ride along.

This is the age of wireless tethering, device to smartphone. Hence, the explosion of new wearable technology products at CES, which are relatively useless without a smartphone being nearby.

The idea of wearable technology is hardly new. I saw some of the early ideas and iterations of it well over a decade ago at MIT’s Media Lab. It was then technically feasible though not commercially viable. There was no device like the smartphone hub at the time.



The smartphone is being used on two sides of interactions, as the initiator and as the recipient.

As initiators, companies at CES including Schlage and Goji showed products that enabled smartphones to unlock doors and Holi from France showed an iPhone controlled lamp.

At the other end of the spectrum, the smartphone acts as the recipient of an action initiated in another device, such as those relating to health or fitness. Think Fitbit. Many companies at CES displayed such products.

Remote sensors also are being used to transmit location information but the sensors typically need a smartphone to sense.

For example, Apple’s iBeacon was used for a scavenger hunt at CES, with sensors at various booths attempting to connect with nearby attendees. I was led close to one at the Robotics booth, but no one working there knew the location of the sensors or anything about them. But hey, it’s still early.

And this remote-to-smartphone interaction will relate to commerce as well.

Samsung showed a shopping option on its Smart TV that enables a viewer to quickly text a purchase option to a phone. Network-enabled cars are coming with dashboard app shopping capabilities.

This extension of the initiation of a purchase is likely to increase, blurring the actual purchase cause.

But what will become increasingly clear is that the smartphone is intimately involved somewhere in the process.

3 comments about "Smartphones Moving Front & Center in Shopping Process".
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  1. Elgin Thompson from Digital Capital Advisors, January 10, 2014 at 5:25 p.m.

    Kevin - Your point on dual interactions is well-taken. On the recipient side, in addition to health or fitness, another use case is security (personal - ring back capabilities of tracking a family member's location via Find My iPhone, as well as home security or auto notifications while away from home).

    Regarding the shopping experience, last fall, I shared thoughts on mobile commerce and the form factor's impact on consumer behavior. The data from the holiday shopping season further supports mobile as a key driver of commerce.

    Lastly, the unfolding of the wearables space will be fascinating to watch going forward.

    Good post.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 10, 2014 at 5:52 p.m.

    Thanks, Elgin, though not clear on the Kevin reference. But good point about the security side and agree that wearables, if nothing else, will be interesting to monitor.

  3. Elgin Thompson from Digital Capital Advisors, January 13, 2014 at 2:21 a.m.

    Chuck - sorry about the name mishap.

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