Mobile devices becoming a bigger part of retail: study

Eight million Canadians shopped with smartphones in May Smart devices are becoming like “butlers” to Canadian shoppers, assisting them with everything from finding a retailer’s nearest bricks and mortar location to checking product availability and price. Alas, they still can’t fetch users a cocktail. Eight million Canadians used a smart device to help them shop […]

Eight million Canadians shopped with smartphones in May

Smart devices are becoming like “butlers” to Canadian shoppers, assisting them with everything from finding a retailer’s nearest bricks and mortar location to checking product availability and price. Alas, they still can’t fetch users a cocktail.

Eight million Canadians used a smart device to help them shop in the past month according to a recent study by Toronto research firm Solutions Research Group (SRG). The findings have significant implications for retailers, said SRG president Kaan Yigit.

The use of the smartphone has two primary benefits, he said: removing “friction” from the retail experience by letting consumers know where they can find any given retailer and if it has a particular product in stock, and socializing the experience by enabling shoppers to share a potential purchase with their social network to gather opinions.

“If I’m a retailer, I have to really start thinking about what people can do on the go and what opportunities I could tap into by creating a [mobile] mirror of my store,” said Yigit.

SRG’s survey of 1,000 Canadians found that 37% use their mobile device to search for a specific retailer, while 30% search for a product price while shopping. Those searches are typically conducted with a mobile browser instead of an app, suggesting a strong need for retailers to have a mobile-optimized website.

“Sites where this is not the case are a frustrating consumer experience,” the study concluded.

The study found that men are leading the way in smartphone use in the retail environment. Of the 20% of smartphone owners who searched for a product prior to making a purchase, the majority were men. Men are also leading the way in the use of QR codes, the study found.

However, of the 39% of smartphone users who took a picture or video of a product while shopping and sent it to someone for an opinion, women accounted for the majority.

The smartphone is becoming a “gateway” to a deeper retail experience, said Yigit, and its role will only increase as smartphone penetration increases to an estimated two-thirds of Canadians by 2015.

The implementation of location-specific strategies will be a key asset, said the study. Free shopping apps such as Shopkick automatically recognize when someone using an iPhone or Android device walks into a store. When a signal from the app is detected, it delivers reward points known as “kicks” to the user for brand interactions such as walking into a store, trying on clothes and scanning a barcode.

“Consumers may or may not be looking for that, but [the software] can presumably learn from their behaviour to become more savvy,” said Yigit.

The survey found that Canadian Tire’s mobile app, which enables users to search products by name, SKU or bar code, and check inventory at stores in their area, is the most popular among mobile users. Apps from Best Buy, Future Shop, The Home Depot and IKEA earned a place among the top five – an indication, said Yigit, that big box stores selling home-related products are a “natural fit” for mobile apps.

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