Smartphones are changing the in-store digital dynamic, and that’s OK

November 2, 2011 by Dave Haynes

We’ve been hearing and reading for two or three years now how the rise of smartphones was going to change the dynamic in retail environments, and force some rethinking and reinvention of early in-store digital efforts.

One-way pushes of content was looking awfully antiquated, and basic touch screens were going to quickly seem lame when compared to the slick apps people were firing up on their iPhones and Android handsets.

It was reasonable to wonder whether people really would be whipping out their phones in the middle of their shopping trips, but research is now coming out that suggests the dynamic really is evolving.

A new study released by Performics, a performance marketing firm, suggests people are doing all kinds of things that influence buying decisions while on the last few steps of the fabled path to purchase.

The study done in September, involving more 1,000 Americans who had to at least had a social network account of some sort, found three in five of these “social shoppers” were using their smartphones to do competitive price searches (62%) or find specials, coupons, or deals (60%) while in a retail location.

The 2011 Social Shopping Study, done by ROI Research, also found 53% looked for product reviews and 45% checked availability. The research also found 41% research product information, 40% look for alternate store locations and just 18% use their smartphones to search for and (presumably) view product videos.

They also do a lot more purely social things than certainly I would have thought. Almost half of them (45%) frequently or occasionally “check in” at a store (why?), and 30% take photos and post them on a social network, asking for comments (ie, “Does this make my butt look big?”).

Well … ummm …

Interesting for the QR and NFC people is an indication that 30% use a barcode scanner app on their phones to scan and shop for prices.

So what does all that mean in the context of digital screens? A few things …

Some of the product look-up, deeper detail and navigation stuff that was perhaps thought to be ideal use-cases for in-store screens may already be supplanted by phones and apps. Not everyone will use them, of course, but a lot do. Is is better to get a locator map on a screen and then toddle off trying to recall the directions, or an app in your hand that provides turn by turn, aisle by aisle guidance?

The screens are going to be the best activation tools around to get consumers using digital product, review and loyalty apps and other tools that retailers and brands manage. People will, no matter what, use Google Shopping and Amazon to price-compare while on the sales floor – but logic tells you there is lots to be done to still close a sale on site even if the price might be better at another retailer, or online.

The CEO for Aegis Media, at the recent DPAA media summit, said price comparison shopping brought on by smartphones didn’t spell doom for brands that can’t compete on price with house products. Nigel Morris suggested “this actually makes brands more relevant, because brands need to communicate in a rich way at the point of transaction.”

Digital OOH and in-store digital are ideally suited to drive brand awareness and reinforce brand and store loyalty right on the sales floor. Smartphones may introduce countless alternatives, but digital screens are powerfully positioned to do the work needed to keep shoppers in that store and get stuff in the shopping basket, even if it is cheaper four blocks away.


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