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Mobile commerce is in its infancy, with relatively few consumers making purchases directly from
their mobile devices, and relatively few retailers and marketers offering an easy way for consumers
to do so. Yet consumers are increasingly shopping via mobile handsets, as they research products
and services before completing transactions in stores or online. Coupons delivered via mobile media
are sending more consumers to stores, and several competing formats of mobile barcodes are
delivering product information largely to smartphone users. The accelerated intersection of mobile,
local, social and commerce is erasing the distinction between online and offline environments.
1) As part of the research process before they are ready to make a purchase
2) In-store when ready to make a purchase decision
3) Completing transactions directly from the handset
Compete illustrated mobile’s role in research in a study of the travel industry. It reported that
less than 1% of consumers use mobile exclusively for travel research and booking, but 30% of
consumers use mobile in conjunction with online research, and 22% use mobile in conjunction
with online booking. Even if it will take some time for consumers to be comfortable planning and
booking trips using mobile devices, it’s already playing a role in the process, a role that will only
grow as marketers develop and enhance their mobile offerings.
Compete further broke down all the ways smartphone users shop. The greatest numbers use
their phones to get second opinions while they shop (62%) and look up store locations or hours
(53%). Another 44% have downloaded a shopping application to their phone, and 39% seek
retailer or product coupons.
One of the biggest changes in mobile user behavior is also apparent above. Compete noted 44%
of consumers with smartphones use their devices to check prices of items while shopping in
stores. eMarketer Senior Analyst Jeffrey Grau recently cited this trend as well, noting, “Until now,
researching online and buying in a store have been sequential activities that take place hours,
days or even weeks apart. But customers who bring their web-enabled mobile phones with them
into a store can do online research at the point of a purchase decision.”
Scott Dunlap, CEO of mobile shopping service NearbyNow, recommended to eMarketer what
retailers should do. He said, “Mobile shoppers are simultaneously in the physical world and in the
online world at all times… They just don’t want to feel stupid by finding out later that [a product
is] 30% off on an online shopping site. I think it’s very smart for a retailer to put a mobile
shopping app in front of consumers because if they end up going to Amazon.com, that retailer is
going to get underbid—guaranteed. Retailers need to reward people for showing up in their
Mobile commerce is starting to become more commonplace as well. A Mobile Marketing
Association Survey from May conducted with Luth Research noted that 17% of U.S. adult mobile
phone owners used their phone to purchase apps, ringtones and other content. Another 6%
received coupons or discounts from their phone, and 6% purchased physical goods or non-mobile
content from their handsets. Not surprisingly, responses varied based on the type of mobile
device respondents used, with more than half of iPhone owners and 34% of BlackBerry owners
having purchased content for their phones.
A Forrester Research study in conjunction with Shop.org released in June indicates the progress being made, noting 74% of U.S. online retailers have a mobile strategy or are developing one. Yet retailers say consumers using mobile web browsers account for less than 3% of total site traffic and 2% of revenue.
Couponing is already a booming industry in a global economy bouncing back from a recession. The
New York Times cited retail technology firm Inmar’s figures showing 50 million coupons were
redeemed in 2009, up 263% over the previous year. Coupons are attracting even more interest
now thanks to advents in mobile marketing. ClickZ cited Borrell Associates’ forecast that US mobile
coupon spending will climb from $90 million in 2009 to $6.53 billion in 2014, though it’s still well
below internet coupon spending, which will grow from $4.2 billion to $22.6 billion over that span.
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