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M-Shoppers Redefine the Mobile Shopping Experience

Dell-150squareNew research shows that mobile-assisted shoppers are no longer seen as a threat to retailers.

By Eric Searleman

Mobile-assisted shoppers (m-shoppers) used to strike fear into the hearts of retailers. Armed with a handy mobile device, a savvy consumer could easily compare prices on the Internet and find the best deal available. Brick-and-mortar doomsayers called it the end of their world. How could a business compete with that?

But hold on. All the Doomsday speak may have been a bit premature. According to new research from the Columbia Business School and Aimia, a global leader in loyalty management, m-shopping may ultimately provide a retailing asset in two distinct areas.

The myth of showrooming

First, new data downplays the myth of “showrooming.” If you didn’t know, showrooming describes a shopper’s habit of spying a product in-store before buying it online.

“Our findings debunk many of the common assumptions about the threat of showrooming,” said Matthew Quint, a co-author of the study. As it turns out, more than 60 percent of shoppers merely use their smartphones to get additional information. Seeing the product on the shelf is actually an incentive to buy it. In other words, showrooming boosts sales. Most people, after all, don’t waste their time going to a store if they’re not already prepared to make a purchase in the first place.

“Many shoppers care about more than just the lowest price on every item,” continues Quint. For example, convenience, urgency and immediacy are the top reasons m-shoppers will buy something in-store even if they know they could probably get it cheaper online.

Enhancing the shopping experience

Secondly, the survey states that m-shopping provides retailers with an opportunity to enhance the in-store customer experience with loyalty and reward programs that will (hopefully) build a long-lasting beneficial relationship. Forty-eight percent of m-shoppers say that being a member of a store’s loyalty program makes them more likely to continue shopping at the store, despite equal or cheaper prices elsewhere including online.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Five types of m-shoppers

To understand the m-shopper better, the team at the Columbia Business School and Aimia have identified five distinct types of mobile-assisted shoppers. Each type of shopper offers unique challenges and opportunities for every business.

Experience-seekers

Most shoppers can be described as experience-seekers (31.7 percent). These people are eager to engage retailers in non-financial ways. For example, a bookstore’s website might feature interviews with authors to excite readers about newly-released novels. In this way, the outlet can pique their customers’ interest without hitting them over the head with a hard sell.

Traditionalists

Second on the list (30.2 percent) are the traditionalists. These shoppers are committed to buying their items at the store. If they use their phone at all, it’s probably to call a friend for advice. As you’d expect, traditionalists are the least threatening of all the m-shoppers.

Price-sensitive shoppers

Price-sensitive shoppers (19.4 percent) only check their smartphones periodically. They don’t plan their shopping trips, but they’re always on the lookout for great deals. But there’s good news for retailers. These shoppers can easily be swayed to spend their money if they experience the right kind of in-store experience.

Savvys

According to the report, the “ripest” target for retailers are the savvys (12.6 percent). They are described as being “calculating, but persuadable.” That’s good news. Since they are more technologically “savvy,” these consumers are more apt to sign up for loyalty programs and other online inducements.

Exploiters

Last on the list are the exploiters (6.1 percent). They are the most difficult group of consumers to reach because they are focused on low prices as their No. 1 priority. But even these m-shoppers can be reached, according to the survey. When exploiters pull out their smartphones, they inevitably go to the store’s homepage for information. If nothing else, this presents a great incentive for businesses to improve their online store.

Brand loyalty, while not mentioned specifically in the survey, is also an important factor with m-shoppers. Automobile manufacturers live and die by their reputations. Earlier this year, Polk, an automobile industry marketing organization, revealed that Porsche and Cadillac vehicles benefit the most from brand loyalty. And car dealers benefit mightily from m-shopping goodwill.

Still, m-shoppers are an astute group. They have redefined the shopping experience in their own image. No longer can they be herded to cash registers like cattle. Dividing m-shoppers into tidy categories is a useful exercise to keep businesses on their toes. But ultimately the best way to lure people to your product is to distribute a variety of information through a variety of efficient channels.

Despite the recent findings from the Columbia Business School-Aimia survey, the fear of m-shopping persists. Undoubtedly devious apps like mshopping can cause retailers to quiver in their boots. Colloquially known as “the powerful shopping list,” mShopping will aggregate information about your desired purchase to reflect locations, prices and quantities. It’s like having your very own personal shopper in your hip pocket. It’s a valuable tool for informed consumers.

In conclusion, retailers know that they are operating in a new world, where the shopper with a smartphone has an ace up their sleeve. Deloitte Digital, a company that knows a thing or two about digital strategy, believes smartphones influenced $159 billion in U.S. sales last year. It predicts these mobile devices will influence $689 billion of store sales in 2016. That’s a huge jump.

Understanding the marketplace is critical, says David Rogers, a professor at Columbia Business School. “To survive, it is critically important that retailers understand the real impact of smartphones on shopper behavior.”

This article was originally published at Dell Tech Page One.

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