Mobile Matters


Is Mobile Commerce Helping or Hurting Retailers?

by: | February 1, 2012

Retailers are accustomed to the sight of shoppers strolling the aisles with mobile devices in hand, but just what they’re doing on their smartphones and tablets may surprise you. A new survey conducted by Prosper Mobile Insights reveals that a growing number of tech-savvy customers are comparing prices, reading product reviews and scanning QR codes, all without leaving the store—the problem is that they’re not necessarily making purchases from the merchant in question.

Forty percent of survey respondents said they’ve compared prices in one store and then left to purchase the same item from another retailer. Another 25 percent bought the product from a rival retailer’s website using their phone or tablet, while 23 percent purchased the item from a competitor via desktop or laptop after exiting the store.

Customer loyalty hasn’t completely gone the way of vintage brick phones, however: Thirty percent of respondents compared prices and still completed a purchase at the same store, with 13 percent completing the transaction from the retailer’s website via mobile device and another 13 percent buying the item on a PC or laptop after leaving the premises.

Some small businesses may find this level of consumer empowerment unsettling, but this is the new reality—there’s no going back. Retailers must respond proactively, starting by making sure their mobile websites are user-friendly and informative (not to mention that their prices are competitive).

But the Prosper Mobile Insights survey also highlights how many new mobile marketing and merchandising opportunities await retailers with customer bases at the cutting edge of technology, illustrating that the gap between the mobile price comparisons of today and the mobile point-of-sale transactions of tomorrow continues to narrow—and that the businesses who seize the opportunity now will be positioned to flourish moving forward. In fact, 57 percent of survey respondents agree somewhat or strongly that swiping their mobile devices to pay for in-store purchases would be convenient and useful.

Consumers aren’t quite ready to make the leap into the future, however. While 57 percent of mobile users say they’re comfortable purchasing an item via mobile browser or application, only 44 percent express comfort with swipe-based payment methods. Security concerns and location tracking fears also remain potent: Seventy-one percent of respondents agree somewhat or strongly that swiping their phones at checkout could compromise their safety.

It seems inevitable that customer opinion will evolve and change over time—after all, it wasn’t so long ago that mobile price comparisons, check-ins and QR code scans were unthinkable. Small businesses can either stay ahead of the curve, or fall hopelessly behind it.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Content, E-Commerce, Geolocation, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Development, Mobile Matters, Usability

About the Writer:

Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of the FierceMobileContent and FierceDeveloper e-newsletters as well as a regular contributor to Entrepreneur magazine and the website All Music Guide. Additional credits include efforts for publications including Rolling Stone, Wax Poetics and No Depression, along with liner notes for a number of album releases. He lives in Chicago.

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