How smartphones transform the in-store shopping experience

Smartphones have become the shopping companion of the majority of people who enter a store. A study, done in conjunction with the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research, states that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store. It’s huge!

As a retailer, you need to be ready for it. By ready, I mean that you need to embrace that fact and see how you can make it easier for shoppers to buy at your store. First, you need to understand how shoppers use their smartphone as their shopping companion.

Customers use their smartphone in-store to:

1. Research and validate their choice

People want to make sure that they will buy the right product for them. A typical shopper will access many sources of information before making a purchase decision, even for simple things. Here are two scenarios where shoppers research products while in a physical store:

When you go to a store, you don’t know in advance which model you will find in store. Or a different model that the one that you expected to buy caught your eye. In these cases, I often read customer reviews online to see which one I should buy.

Self-help is gaining in popularity

Many shoppers prefer not talking to a salesperson, unless they really need to. The study highlighted that 1 in 3 shoppers use their smartphones to find information instead of asking store employees.

Even when they wish to talk to a salesperson, they might not want to wait for a salesperson to become available. Others will use the waiting time to gather information on their own.

2. Compare prices and options

Shoppers are more likely to check prices before making an in-store purchase if the retailer has a price match policy. Regardless, like many shoppers, I also check prices online to see if the price at the store I’m in is fair. On these occasions, the retailer doesn’t necessarily have to be the cheapest since I will factor in the time he would take me to get to their competitor’s store. When I found a store with a better price or a model with a more desired option, I will often want to know if the product is in stock before I will drive there.

3. It’s about Convenience

People crave for  ways to save them time and make their life easier. In a competitive market, retailers should aim to reduce as many frictions of doing business with you as possible. One way for retailers to compete is to provide shoppers with a Web site that delivers an awesome experience on a smartphone. That starts with quick access to the information most shoppers are looking for. Make sure that your Web site delivers:

  • an easy to access and efficient product search;
  • big product pictures. People need to see the product to validate that it is the right one for them;
  • up-to-date product inventory by location. Make it easy for people to find the nearest store that has in stock the product they want. Use the current location of their phone instead of asking them to type a ZIP/Postal code. The product page should include a link to how to get there, the business hours and phone number, just in case a customer may wish to reserve your last item before they head to your store.

65% of shoppers prefer a mobile site to an app according to that same survey

You may be surprised to hear that most shoppers prefer a mobile site over a shopping app. I feel the same. My preference goes to a well-designed responsive Web site over an app when it comes to shopping and pre-shopping. It is often more convenient and more natural for me to open Safari when I am searching for products or promotions online because I can access more sources at once.

Food for thought: Potential for lower return rates

I don’t have statistics to back up this point but I have the feeling that the fact that shoppers are making a more informed purchasing decision while at a physical store could reduce the amount of returned items. I am curious to hear from retailers about their experience. Does in-store smartphone shopping have any impact of their return rates.

For more details, you can view 37 slides that tell you how mobile is transforming the shopping experience in store. You may also like my tips on how to improve your store locator.

+ photo credits: iPhone wristlet by Kate Spade