The smartphone and its role in the shopping journey is perhaps the aspect of retail today that most reliably generates hand-wringing, inviting questions about where exactly the mobile device is effective in influencing a mercantilism bottom line.
Just last week Publicist.Sapient’s SVP of commerce and “retail geek” Jason Goldberg questioned what’s happening in mobile commerce as traffic ticks up and conversions creep higher, but average order values haven’t shown a notable improvement.
Today, however, new research from GfK’s FutureBuy study points to the smartphone as an indispensable tool in how consumers embark on their shopping experience, as 45 percent of 35,000 polled consumers described the mobile device, whether smartphone or tablet, as their most important tool for shopping.
What’s more, GfK said, a “growing number of U.S. shoppers would not think about starting a purchase journey without a mobile device in hand.”
What should really catch retailers’ attention is that 48 percent of respondents don’t think the physical store will be a major part of their buying journeys in the future as their reliance on digital technologies and commerce expands. It’s unclear how these shoppers feel about apparel in particular, as clothing remains a vertical in which customers generally continue to value the in-store experience of touching product and confirming fit in the dressing room.
“The desire or need to shop is often spontaneous, and most consumers have their smartphones nearby at all times,” Joe Beier, EVP of consumer insights at GfK, explained. “So it is no surprise that mobile technology is playing a growing–and increasingly complex–role in shopper journeys. While shopping online overall is driven largely by a search for savings, the mobile component is often about research on-the-go.
“And we should not see traditional retail as somehow pitted against the mobile element; often they work together–and those who can deliver a seamless experience will be more likely to capture the sale,” Beier added.