Close to 70% of smartphone owners plan to use the devices for holiday shopping, according to Deloitte (pdf). Smartphone ownership has jumped from 39.7% last year to 46.1% this year and tablet owners have doubled from 10.5% to 22.4% according to 9,000 shoppers surveyed by BIGinsught. This will probably also spur an increasing number of people colliding heads and walking into fountains as everyone in the mall will be looking down at their mobile devices instead of watching where they are walking.
Knowing that these devices have become permanent fixtures on our bodies, retailers are using the technology in an attempt to enhance the shopping experience. As soon as you cross the mall threshold, your phone will buzz with merchant coupons or even better, your online shopping cart has been paid and converted to real items for you walk out, bags in hand, without standing in the check-out aisle. You’ll be able to browse inventory to know if that incredible deal is in stock or simply purchasing the item on the smartphone while standing in the store and have it arrive, already wrapped, the next day. Retailers are trying to combat the behavior of looking for the best deals on an item, only to go home and purchase online elsewhere. Many retailers are equipping employees with tablets and checkout areas with mobile payment systems. Employees have apps that offer richer information in case a shopper wants to know what a coat is made of, or specific warranty info on an electronic item. These employee handhelds could also check-out a shopper in the middle of the store, avoiding any lines. Some stores have even installed iPads in the dressing room so shoppers can choose what music to listen to while parading their selections in the mirror. Hopefully on those, the cameras are disabled since I can already see a remote ‘Peeping in the Dressing Room’ breach in the headlines.
Coupon sites are starting to deploy Geofencing, or the ability to offer deals that are within range. You cross a digital boundary and the phone lights up with scan-able deals from area merchants. While retailers will be trying to entice the shopper, mobile technology also helps the shopper. They can look up items, prices and reviews; see who has the best selection/inventory/deals; who offers free shipping and a host of other data to help complete Santa’s list while staying under budget.
More stores will also be offering free WiFi for shoppers. Boingo Wireless indicates that 20%-30% of retailers have deployed wireless in the stores and they expect that to grow to 30%-40% in the coming years. While it’s wonderful not to be ‘connected’ while shopping, most of these WiFi zones are not secure and all the security rules of open WiFi still apply. Watch the type of sensitive info you enter while connected since there is virtually no protection.