Look around any shopping facility of any kind these days and you’re likely to see someone using their mobile phone.
While phone calls and texting are still occurring, there’s increasingly more mobile activity directly related to the actual context of the shopper in the store.
There are numerous research findings indicating this is true, the most recent being from the Pew American and Internet Life Project report on the rise of in-store mobile commerce.
That study showed that more than half (52%) of adult mobile phone owners use their phones to help with purchase decisions while in a store.
But the key to marketers and retailers is what mobile consumers are now and will be doing with their phones as they shop.
The ScanLife Mobile Barcode Trend Report, which tracks mobile scans of both traditional UPC and 2D barcodes, reported nearly 12 million scans in the last quarter and a 300 percent growth from the previous year.
But mobile scanning at retail is quickly moving to mobile buying on location.
Retailers got a taste of some of the potential behaviors during the holiday shopping season as Amazon aggressively attempted to incent consumers to scan items in a physical store and then buy from Amazon.
At the MediaPost Mobile Insider Summit, Alex Muse, CEO of ShopSavvy, talked about the evolution of the well-known price comparison app, boasting more than 20 million downloads.
During the holiday season, the company launched ShopSavvy Wallet, allowing one-tap purchasing after an item is scanned. Essentially, a mobile shopper scans a traditional barcode on an item in a store, views the pricing at other stores on the app and selects the one with the best price.
Like Amazon, with credit card and shipping information pre-entered into the ShopSavvy app, the mobile customer buys the item with one tap and the credit card is charged by the retailer, which directly ships the product based on information passed along by ShopSavvy.
As a further indication of the rise in on-the-spot buying, ShoppSavvy found that 87 percent of the purchases made through the mobile wallet were by people located in retail stores.
The challenge and opportunity for physical retailers is to transform the showrooming activity of a mobile shopper using the retailers’ brick and mortar assets to view products and then mobile-buy them elsewhere into immediate buyers from them.
After a recent mobile presentation to a large group of retailers, I was asked how the check-out process might evolve over time because of mobile, with the view of the checkout process being the last phase just before the customer leaves the store.
One of the points being overlooked was that many mobile shoppers never make it to the traditional cash register checkout, having been intercepted during the product selection process itself.
So while some retailers may be looking at retail through the wrong lens, analyzing how point of sales systems and checkout might be modified to accommodate mobile shoppers, they could be missing a more significant dimension of mobile shopping. Checkout and POS systems obviously are part of the equation, but far from the whole picture.
Shopping traditionally has been a linear function. A shopper goes to a store to find a particular item, selects it and then heads to the cashier to pay on the way out the door.
Mobile changes shopping to be an iterative function. The shopper is highly interactive, in real time, on location, as they shop. They can get up-to-the-minute price information, be solicited by other online and offline retailers and buy through one mobile tap.
There are other one-tap buying apps on the market and more on the way, which will have a profound impact on retail, whether retailers are ready for the one-tap wave or not.
Chuck Martin is author of The Third Screen; Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile, The Smartphone Handbook, CEO of Mobile Future Institute, Director of the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications and a highly sought-after mobile marketing speaker.