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Role of mobile is growing in the retail environment: study

March 30, 2011

For the digitally-inclined social shopper, mobile is the connection that bridges the gap between the Web and the in-store experience, according to new research.

The study by Delvinia finds that more people are accessing the Web via mobile than ever before and mobile is becoming increasingly integral to the shopping experience. The study found that shoppers are not only increasingly using peer ratings and reviews to guide their purchase decisions: Their use is going mobile, which is a new trend.
“In addition to shoppers using their phones to make purchases and conduct research, digitally-savvy consumers are also accessing new and emerging digital technologies on their mobile devices while shopping—including QR codes and social media platforms like Foursquare and Facebook Places,” said Steve Mast, president of Delvinia, Toronto.

“Open source QR codes are popping up everywhere and are being used for small business, personal and retail applications more each day,” he said.

Mobile shopping activities
Twenty-two percent of Canadians who own a smartphone said they would be somewhat or very interested in taking a picture of a QR/bar code and sending it to a company in exchange for a coupon, discount or more information.

Delvinia’s research finds that nearly one in five Canadian smartphone owners have used their phones to search for product recommendations and reviews while shopping.

In fact, the number of smartphone users who search for this information rises dramatically to 40 percent when you look solely at iPhone owners.

Another growing element of the mobile shopping experience is the use of camera phones.

Delvinia’s research finds that one third of Canadian smartphone owners have used their phone to take a picture of a product while shopping.  A further 9.7 percent have used their phone to post to a social network about their shopping experiences.

So, whether it’s to compare prices, locate stores or even take pictures of merchandise, the role of mobile is growing in the retail environment.
Role of mobile in retail
Customers are also checking in for rewards on applications like Foursquare and are increasingly using their mobile devices as a digital wallet. Our research found that 7.6 percent of smartphone owners have made some kind of purchase directly through their phone.

“The speed of access to information has created an environment in which shoppers have become empowered consumers,” Mr. Mast said.

“Shoppers have instant access to information from experts and their peers to assist in their decision making,” he said. “They also have the ability to compare prices, research product features and benefits, which enables them to make better-informed decisions.”

Digitally-savvy social shoppers are using their mobile devices to do everything from taking pictures of products while they’re shopping to downloading coupons and posting comments and photos to social networking sites.
Here is a look at some of the most popular activities:
32.5 percent – take a picture of a product in-store
26.6 percent – locate a store that carries a produce
24.9 percent – gather information about the general product type
23.2 percent – compare prices
19 percent – find recommendations and reviews
13.5 percent – download a coupon or other promotion
8 percent – post to a social network about a product
6.3 percent – use a QR code to get product information or a better price

“There are definitely opportunities for retailers to connect via mobile through the check-in capabilities of smartphones with services like Foursquare and Facebook Places,” Mr. Mast said. “Retailers have the opportunity to offer rewards and the potential to drive brand loyalty. It also drives word of mouth from a social perspective.

“Offering coupons via mobile devices is another huge opportunity for retailers,” he said. “So are the camera capabilities within smartphones.

“We’re seeing a huge use of clicking within stores and these pictures are being sent out to friends through social networks and that’s driving people back to the stores.”

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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