Mobile phones have entered our lives on a lot of levels, taking on a role very different from the communication devices they were intended to be. Your phone is now not only your primary communications tool, but also your camera, your music player and increasingly – your shopping cart. Almost everyone uses his or her mobile phones for shopping, and the trend is increasing. For consumers, it has been very good news – mobile phones make goods both cheaper to buy, and easier to buy.
Online shopping with phones
As mobile phones evolve from basic communication devices to internet-enabled devices, their primary use also evolves. One of the most useful aspects of owning a mobile phone is the access it gives you to online shopping. This is both in the shape of websites – most online retailers have mobile friendly versions of their websites – but also increasingly in the shape of dedicated apps for individual retailers.
Users say that one of the main reasons why they shop on a mobile phone is simply because they already have their phone with them – or are in fact already using their phone. There is less and less reason to switch to shopping on a computer, never mind walk to a store, when it is possible to order goods on your phone and in many cases, get them delivered free of charge.
The utility of a phone in a retail store
Phones are used for actual shopping, yes, but they are also very useful for assisting with shopping. It is quite common for people to use their phones while they are physically in a retail store. A mobile phone with Internet access is a comprehensive source of information on the products you see in a retail store. Not only can you compare prices with other retailers, but you can also look at reviews others have left for a product.
The latest apps allow you take a picture of a product with your phone to in turn receive full details on the price of the product, nutritional details if relevant and places nearby where you can buy it at a lower cost. This is somewhat of a nightmare for retailers who are struggling to compete, but consumers have entered an era where they have an unlimited amount of information in the palm of their hands – making shopping significantly easier.
Dedicated apps for retail stores
In the fight against cheap, online shopping a lot of retailers have now opted to directly target mobile phone shoppers. Major retailers have developed dedicated applications where you can buy their products, with some adding a lot of bells and whistles. For example, many stores allow you to use their mobile phone apps to collect loyalty points that can be redeemed against goods or perks at the store.
The better apps also make very good use of the ability to target a mobile phone user while they are shopping – collecting information on their physical shopping habits which can be turned into offers online. In fact many retailers now increasingly see their stores as a showcase for their products, hoping to lure shoppers in to look at products that they will later buy online.
Online stores as a business model
It has been a huge boon for consumers: online retailers operate technology driven procurement and fulfillment systems that are centralized and optimized to a high degree. This results in lower prices and quicker delivery. Stores such as New Easy – previously known as As Seen On TV– that operate online only have a massive cost advantage against bricks and mortar retailers who have higher costs in the shape of labor and rent spent on store space.
In fact, many online businesses would never survive with their pricing models intact if they were forced to operate a physical storefront. Classic retailers find this unfair – even though they are still operating physical stores they are forced to compete on price with what online stores are offering. However, for some products shopping is still best done in person – you will find it hard to evaluate the fit and feel of clothes via a mobile app. This is where some retailers operating a physical store have an advantage over their online only counterparts.
The future of shopping on phones
Mobile phones are increasing in sophistication. One of the ways in which shopping via mobile phones will change in the near future is in the way retailers can personalize offers to you. Soon, entering a physical store will prompt the retailer’s app on your phone to send you custom offers which may be valid on that day only. There is no question however – online shopping, via mobile phones, is going to be increasingly popular.