The Future of Smart-Shopping

by Kate Enright

Last “holiday season” in the US, 50% of adult smartphone owners used their mobiles in-store to get help with purchases. This was to ensure that they got the best price possible and the most information when before making purchases. This data came from a study made by Pew of 1000 adult holiday shoppers all over the US. Pew found that 38% of shoppers called a friend while in store for advice, while 24% used their smart-phone to obtain product reviews online. 25% of phone users looked up prices online for products in-store in attempt to find the best deal online and in other stores. Altogether, 52% of all adult cell owners relied on their phone for one of these purposes and 33% specifically turned to their phone for online information while shopping inside a store.

These statistics tell us something crucial, shoppers are changing the way they operate and retailers and app developers have to keep up. They have the chance to take advantage of this new wave of smart-buying and cater to the needs of these shoppers, it looks like the world is responding in kind with an array of shopping apps. Last October Om Malik of GIGAOM wrote an article on the rise of the smart-buyer. His thinking is that these people are not bargain hunters but the emergence of what he called the “smart buyer” who use smartphones to make smart decisions. In that case, what kind of apps can we expect shoppers to be using over the next few years?

Well, let’s start from the doorway. We’ve all heard of social check-in, we use this function on social networks and are familiar with how it works. Well, what about automatic check-in, you walk into a store and you are automatically picked-up by the retailer, from there on in, while you are in the store, your entire retail experience is tailored specifically to you. The store’s database will update your shopping app so it knows your name, your purchase history, your return history, your buying preferences, and social history. Apps such as Checked by Walkbase are making this a reality. Checked runs through your Foursquare subscription and is the most accurate auto check-in app to date. 


Now, consider being in the isles of a megastore attempting to locate your favourite type of ice-cream, the best deal on rice or a secret voucher code displayed in the cereal section. By using in-store locator and private advertising apps such as nSide by Point Inside, retailers can create their own customised virtual map of the store guiding shoppers by deals, by preference or by previous purchase to where they should be. It is a completely new direction from the old thinking, making shoppers trawl through isle after isle of your store with little guidance in the hope they will make an impulse buy or two. This is the new kind of shopping for the busy consumer of today.


From Pew’s analytics, it seems one of the most important uses of the smart-phone in-store is to look up product information and find reviews/advice online. Augmented reality product evaluation will now make this a much easier process. Imagine walking through a store and having your smart phone automatically display useful information about the products you’re looking at. If you stop and look at a specific product, the smart app will tell you everything you need to know about it, including whether or not it’s a good buy for you. If there’s a better product for you a few isles over, the smart app will guide you to it. Retrevo have been working on doing this with in-store electronics (pictured below) and with Layar utilising augmented reality to overlay competitions, deals, customer feedback surveys and over physical objects it is a only a matter of time before augmented reality based shopping becomes a reality. Amazon’s Flow and Price Check apps although labelled by Forbes as the “future”, hardly aid retailers as they simply divert shoppers directly to amazon and reward shoppers for doing so. But luckily the industry is being demonopolized by companies such as with their app Eyeora who are providing shoppers with an interactive product evaluation and a “watch-it” function to help both the retailer and customer.


You have spent an hour trudging around the supermarket, pushing a trolley with a broken wheel veering to the left, and finally you reach the checkout only to find you have to queue up behind 10 other miserable customers with crying children and broken shopping bags. Well not for long….or at least “they’re” working on it. Last year we saw the emergence of virtual shopfronts in Asia, simple point click and have it delivered. Now however, Google have released Google Wallet revolutionising the entire process further. Google Wallet, along with Google Offers — is built on an open platform and combines multiple credit cards, loyalty programs and offers at the point of sale. Payment is made by swiping your smartphone at checkout after adding items to the built-in shopping list as you go. Basically, no more wallets! Google are not the only ones doing this however, Isis with the backing of Verizon, T&T and T-Mobile is a direct Google Wallet competitor and it’s going to be a fight to the finish.


So as is plain to see, the entire shopping experience is changing, all based on the changing behaviour and needs of today’s shoppers. And these changes are running from your very first entry into the store to completing purchase and checking out. Can retailers survive the smart-shopping and mobile commerce boom? In my opinion the answer is yes, by embracing the technological revolution and embracing customer convenience rather than fighting it.

Check out the infographic at the link below for more stats: