BrainTrust Query: So What’s With Smartphones?
Those of us who are frequent contributors/readers of RetailWire are constantly being pointed to social media, smartphones, QR codes and any of a number of other new technologies as both the wave of the future and the demise of retail as we know it. As a frequent grocery shopper, I wonder what all the excitement is about. The last few times I’ve gone to my Publix or Kroger, I haven’t seen anyone using smartphones or tablets for their shopping and I’m keeping an eye out.
Now you might attribute that to my being in Atlanta, where we like to think the pace of life is a bit slower. But we are pretty far along the technology adaptation curve here — it’s the Georgia Tech influence and the fact that I don’t believe we have any native Atlantans where I live. Or it might be a disconnect with the survey takers releasing reports about mobile shopping — many have a vested interest in showing that these new tools are critical to retailing’s future.
Consider first that about a third of Americans 13 and older own a smartphone — a large percentage, if not overwhelming (although it is likely to grow, at least in the near future).
An interesting article published by Mobile Commerce Daily cited a few relevant "facts":
- PayPal predicted last fall that 67 percent of consumers would make a holiday purchase via mobile;
- InMobi reported that almost 60 million consumers would shop with their mobile phones on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
In contrast, IBM reported that:
- 6.6 percent of sales on Black Friday were made via mobile phone;
- About one percent of sales came via referral from Facebook.
These figures are clearly contradictory and paint a very different picture of mobile usage. It’s not clear that mobile or social media is being used much. Next, consider another recent study from students at LIM College in New York, "Shopping Trends Among 18-25 Year Olds":
- 68 percent of 18-25 year-olds would much rather shop in stores than use digital technology;
- 66 percent use the web for gathering information;
- Only 23 percent shop from a tablet or smartphone;
- 88 percent do not want to shop through Facebook or Twitter.
As a CPG researcher, two points stand out to me. First, we need to realize that the questions generating these figures are based on "shopping," presumably including much more than grocery shopping, which I’m betting represents the bulk of the transactions in the universe of "shopping" occasions.
Second, hard shopping data and survey results seem to be in conflict with survey results dramatically overestimating the use of phones for shopping.
- IBM: Cyber Monday Spending Increases 33% – Multichannel Merchant
- How Consumers Will Use Their Mobile Devices During the Holidays – Mobile Commerce Daily
- Young shoppers prefer real stores – Consumer Goods Club
Discussion Questions: Are we over-thinking the use of mobile technology for grocery shopping and assuming it is going to be a much bigger opportunity than it will really be? Is the shopping market that is likely to be affected by social media and smartphone usage limited to durables (fashion, media, appliances, etc.), or is grocery also going to need to pick up the pace?