Smartphone Shopping Sprees on the Rise

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Shopping mall parking lots may be getting a bit less populated, according to “Marketing a Mobile Shopper,” a study by Arc Worldwide, Leo Burnett’s marketing services arm.

The research reveals that the traditional shopping journey is changing, with half of Americans using a mobile device for “shopping activities,” which include comparing prices, ordering, and reading reviews. As a result, companies have been left with an ultimatum: “Deliver valuable mobile experiences or risk losing the customer.”

Molly Garris, manager of digital strategy at Arc, says, “I think we knew that there were a lot of people doing some sort of mobile shopping activities, but what was more interesting to me was the huge group of people that is doing some sort of shopping activities that we really have the opportunity to influence.”

The study divided mobile shoppers into two groups: heavy and light. Heavy shoppers were “forever attached to their mobile devices and loved experimenting with new apps.” On the other hand, light shoppers view mobile devices as “inferior on-the-go versions of their computers.” Because heavy shoppers make up only about 11 percent of all mobile phone owners, Garris encourages retailers to target light shoppers.

“I think there is an opportunity to reach some of these light mobile shoppers in a different way,” she says. “It was exciting to see this big group of people and what activities they were doing so that we could start to plan some strategies around them.”

Those strategies need to focus on “getting the basics right” for light shoppers, Garris says, highlighting the benefits to show how mobile shopping can save them time and money. “We found they are not as into the novelty and experimentation as the heavy mobile shoppers,” she says.

For the light group, the most common shopping behavior was looking up store hours, addresses, and locations. However, many mobile sites are not equipped for that activity, Garris observes. “A lot of stores don’t have a mobile site or don’t have it optimized for searches, so those are really good opportunities to help reframe the perception of mobile as a shopping tool,” she says.

While the study did not address privacy directly, Garris believes location-based apps were less likely to interest light mobile shoppers, who are hesitant to share information. “Heavy mobile shoppers are willing to check in on Foursquare just to see if there is a deal or use Shopkick to see how it works,” she observes. “The light mobile shoppers who are the future are not willing to go the extra mile. They really want to just be able to pull up a mobile Web site and have it work.”

Based on the study’s results, Garris is a “firm believer” that an all-mobile wallet is the future for both heavy and light mobile shoppers. “Carrying around a wallet filled with a gazillion loyalty cards is just not fun for any consumer,” she says. “On top of that, trying to remember to bring all of your coupons and credit cards with you just doesn’t make sense for a consumer who is engaged across a lot of different retailers and brands.”

Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb can be reached at bfarb@destinationcrm.com.

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