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Has the Future of Shopping Already Arrived?

by Alison Chaltas , 22.10.2013

Yes. The future of shopping is already in full swing. Mobile technology has changed how we communicate, view the world, and accomplish everyday tasks. Shopping is clearly one of those tasks.

At a minimum, retailers must keep up with shoppers’ fast-changing habits and preferences, providing a well-calibrated mix of information, service, and promotion. But the opportunities may actually outnumber the threats from this new way of doing business.

While many have forecast that cost-cutting online retail giants like Amazon will use Internet and mobile to bring about the end of the brick-and-mortar store, it may simply be the start of an integrated shopping experience. Futurebuy, an annual GfK study that has been tracking global shopping habits since 2009, shows that, across 12 categories, 37% of US shoppers – and 29% globally – are turning to both online and in-store information sources when making purchases.

Having the “inside track” on pricing, quality, and other key decision factors top the list of reasons why consumers research their products on the web. But, they still want to see and feel the products in stores. Shoppers pick and choose what best works for them financially, cutting down time at stores and accurately choosing the products that would best suit their needs.

It is known that rates of “omni-channel” shopping are highest in the US, especially in regions with higher mobile device penetration. Shoppers who are most likely to have a cell phone or tablet in tow are more likely to consult online retailers and blogs before making a purchase.

Expecting this, marketers at brick-and-mortar businesses have streamlined the process by displaying scanning QR codes next to their products to more efficiently serve these crafty consumers. And while this research is done at the store, shoppers often wait until they get home to a laptop or desktop to make their purchases. This gives brick-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to still win them over, even if it is ordered through their online storefront.

This is why it is essential to have a unified message and brand across platforms to solidify a brand’s image. Marketers can use this to their advantage through joint online and in-store campaigns that clearly demonstrate their worth, both monetarily and in service.

Bargain hunters aren’t the only ones looking them up. Big purchases like electronics, home appliances and mobile devices top the list of items most frequently subject to omni-channel shopping.  These groups also research toys and apparel. Our Futurebuy research also shows that a wide array of consumers, of many prices points and ages engage in this behavior.

While rates of mobile purchases decrease with age in much of the world, they increased sharply in Korea. Similarly, all ages both in the US and abroad still cite Social Media as an important resource in purchase decisions. These trends, likely to rise, show that the young are not the only ones consulting their news feeds for product information.

Managed and leveraged well, mobile can deliver more and more paths for consumers to follow back to “traditional” and digital retail brands alike. The key is meeting consumers with the answers to their questions and problems, where and when they are needed most.

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