Smartphones are Changing the Shopping Experience


A little while ago I noted that technology, principally Smartphone technology, was changing the way we interacted with brick-and-mortar stores. Technology is altering the shopping experience and, consequently, the discipline of shopper insights. I am back with more evidence.

Recent research has asked the question, "Why do consumers 'friend' companies on Facebook?" A good question. The answer is obvious; they do it to get deals and offers. They do it because they are customers. Are brands buying love? We will see. But, buried in the data was an interesting tidbit. 23% of those surveyed had downloaded a brand-specific App to their Smartphones.

Apps are another way to get offers, but they have another feature -- a store finder -- that can alter the way consumers shop. I have often asked consumers, "Say you are driving down the street and you see a McDonald's on your left and a Burger King on right. Which do you choose and why?"

But, now, when I find myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood or on the road and the uncontrollable urge for a burger comes over me, I swipe across my Smartphone screen, hit the McDonald's App, find the nearest Golden Arches, and head for it like a laser. No scanning the signs, no getting waylaid by a Burger King. I am there.

When I want a cup of coffee, I do the same thing. I tap on the Starbuck's App, and I am there.

These Apps are that nirvana of marketers, something that short circuits the consumer's normal behavior and puts a single brand squarely before her eyes to the exclusion of all others. In the future, I may have to ask consumers, "Say you are looking at (driving down?) your Smartphone screen and you see Apps for McDonald's and Burger King. Which do you tap?" This example is hypothetical as there appears to be no Burger King App at the moment.

Another way that Smartphones can alter the shopping experience is by blurring the line between online and offline. Tesco has driven up sales at its Home Plus stores in South Korea by plastering the walls of subway stations with full-size representations of grocery store aisles. Each item is accompanied by a QR code. All busy commuters have to do is scan the items they want with the Home Plus App on their Smartphones, and it is delivered to their home that day. Is this on-line shopping? Is it brick-and-mortar shopping? Thanks to the Smartphone, Tesco has converted bricks-and-mortar to paper-and-paste.

Shopping in the future is going to be very interesting and exceptionally varied.