Much has been written about the “connected consumer,” “generation c,” “the wired customer” or [insert new cleverly descriptive name here] so we won’t elaborate on the demographics/psychographic makeup of these consumers here.
It is, however, worth a quick review to understand the numbers associated with the connected shopper:
- There are more than 116M smartphones in the US
- Nearly half of smartphone owners use their devices to research items before or during a store visit
- 80% of US smartphone users access a retail site or app on their mobile devices
- By 2016, smartphones are likely to influence between 17% and 21% of US retail purchases, equating to $628-782B in sales
It’s clear: customers have smartphones and they’re not afraid to use ‘em.
Add to that the changes in shopper behavior wrought by the recession. Driven by increased scarcity of both discretionary income and time, shoppers are looking for deals and more efficient ways to shop. And forecasts are that this phenomenon will not only continue but will, in fact, increase.
The question for retailers and brands: What is the best way to take advantage of these dynamics in ways that benefit both the retailer and the customer?
The answer is that traditional marketing is crashing into shopper engagement. What used to be the one-to-many communication medium (such as newspaper ad inserts, billboards, and in-store signage) has given way to new and more effective one-to-one channels that engage each shopper individually via mobile devices.
The retailer strategy is straightforward. Borrowing liberally from Stephen Covey: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Smartphones combined with the right apps are the way for retailers to gain understanding of each shopper individually: what they currently want to buy, past purchase behavior, where they are in the store and what messages/offers they respond to.
For the second part, smartphones also provide a means to provide highly personalized and effective communications to the shopper: special offers on products of interest, new product suggestions, locations of products within the store and the most efficient route through the store. More importantly, the right messages can be delivered at the right time at every point along the decision path.
This means different things to different types of retailers. But whether you’re a grocer, hardware store, department store or specialized retailer, understanding your customers individually and being able to respond to them in a personalized manner is a significant and revolutionary step forward in retailing.
It’s time to take advantage of these powerful capabilities. To be sure, the retailers who leverage their customers’ new shopping and purchasing behaviors will lap those who don’t.