2011: The Year That Shopping on Main Street USA Went Mobile

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Jan 4, 2011

Guest post by Nitzan Shaer, Managing Partner of High Start Group. Follow Nitzan on Twitter! This is one of several guest posts in the MITX 2011 Perspectives Blog Series. Stay tuned for many more posts by Boston's most influential thought leaders.

How many times a week, while at the office, talking to friends, or just walking down the street do you think of an item you need to purchase?  A ticket to a show, a pair of shoes, a flight ticket, a book, or an item for the house?  Once you decide you want to buy something you typically wait until you get home to your computer, or alternatively wait until you are in the right store.

But what if you could pull out your phone, and with just a few strokes select, pay for, and have the item delivered to your home?  Some of us already use our mobile phone this way, but in 2011 many more millions of Americans will be enjoying the convenience, comfort, and instant gratification of purchasing real-world goods on their mobile phone.

The shift to mobile phone purchasing will have a dramatic impact on consumer behavior, advertising channels, and most importantly on retailers, who will see traffic move from brick and mortar and “traditional” online to the mobile channel.  For retailers who innovate and embrace change this represents a seismic opportunity to acquire new users and serve them in new ways.  For others, this will pose a material threat over time. 

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Why 2011? There are three major trends that will be culminating this year.  First, technology – specifically, smart phone adoption and mobile broad band penetration.  Second, consumer behavior - millions of people have evolved their use of a mobile phone from voice communications device to a computing device. Third, many retailers have begun to roll out mobile specific shopping experiences.

Technology is in the palm of our hands

According to Nielsen, there are 61 million smartphone owners in the U.S. – a number that represents 30% of all phones in use.  By the end of 2011, 50% of all phones in the U.S. will be smartphones.  Smartphone users are also changing their habits: more people are downloading apps and using them – Apple has had more than 2 billion apps downloaded from its app store.

Consumers want to shop on the go

Consumers are readily and eagerly embracing mobile for shopping and purchasing needs.  A Yankee Group survey found that of smartphone users, 36% researched products or services using the mobile web, 34% used price comparison mobile apps, 21% used apps that optically scan barcodes to provide real time price comparisons, and 19% used e-commerce review sites.  ABI Research notes that nearly 50% of smartphone owners use or plan to use mobile phones for shopping.

Retailers are customizing the mobile experience

What does this mean for retailers? The mobile experience cannot be a simple replication of the online experience.  It needs to be tailored specifically for the mobile medium – one click payment, easy access to top items, instant check in and check out.  Whether it’s Bank of America’s mobile banking application, Amazon’s mobile experience, or one of eBay’s 14 different mobile applications, retailing giants are making mobile shopping ubiquitous by making them engaging, and simplifying the experience and steps required for a mobile device.

Internet Retailer Magazine cited 10 groundbreaking retailers in mobile commerce, including Walgreens, ShopNBC, Apple, 1-800-Flowers.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Polo Ralph Lauren and more.

Retailers looking to create engaging, revenue-generating mobile applications have a multitude of considerations to incorporate into the application strategy, user experience and development process.

Mobile shopping is a wide open opportunity for retailers large and small, local and international.  Entrepreneurs to established brands can leverage the technology, and channel consumer enthusiasm for greater revenues and brand success.

Want to join the discussion on what this means for retailers, consumers, and advertisers? Leave a comment with your thoughts and mobile experiences below, or write to events@highstartgroup.com to register for an event on February 16 at Vilna Shul dedicated to a discussion on mobile commerce. 

Did you just discover this series? Don't worry! You can check out our last post, by Jeff Janer, here!