Mobile computing will disrupt retail sales funnel

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Analyst firm comScore's “2012 Mobile Future in Focus” report, released February 23, details major trends in consumer smartphone shopping behaviors, noting how consumer use of a mobile handset for retail and commerce is one of the fastest-growing activities for US mobile consumers. The report describes mobile disruption in the retail environment as “among the most important stories for 2012.”

Besides general increase in smartphone adoption, this shift can be attributed to brands actively seeking out mobile customers, according to comScore analyst Carmela Aquino. “More retailers have developed apps and optimized their sites for mobile browsing, making it easier than ever for consumers looking for product information or doing price comparisons to do so from their phones,” she said.

The most notable mobile retail trend is the tendency for customers to consult their smartphones about potential purchases while within an actual store. The report also notes how in December 2011, 28.5 million consumers used their mobile devices to find online retail content; this is an 87% increase from the previous year. Overall, comScore noted a spike in mobile access to commerce-related content. Electronic payments increased 80%; classifieds increased 72%; auction sites increased 70%; and shopping guides increased 67% compared with the previous year.

Moreover, comScore found 1 in 5 US consumers used their smart devices to photograph a product; 1 in 5 US customers scanned a barcode; and 12% compared in-store product prices with online lists. 

The fundamental challenge brick-and-mortar outlets must now contend with is additional competition against online retail outlets, or retail outlets with a significant online presence, even when the customer is physically present. However, Aquino emphasizes significant areas of opportunity as well, providing shoppers with deals that give them incentive to shop within the actual store.

“As shoppers become more savvy about the way they shop, given the access to information that mobile devices provide them, retailers will have to be more creative in how they leverage these growing mobile retail habits,” Aquino said.

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