Look Ma! No Wires

Jul 24, 2009

George Anderson

Americans are going wireless.
That’s according to a new study from the Pew Research Center that shows
56 percent of those going online do so wirelessly using either a laptop
and/or mobile device.

According to Pew, 39 percent
use a wireless network to get online with their laptop and about one-in-three
log on using a mobile phone.

The most significant growth
is taking place with mobile phone users. Just two years ago, fewer than
one-fourth were going online with a wireless connection from a mobile device.

“Mobile access
strengthens the three pillars of online engagement: connecting with others,
satisfying information queries, and sharing content with others,” John
Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project, told the Seattle
. “With access in their pockets, many Americans
are ‘on the fly’ consumers and producers of digital information.”

Half of the
study’s respondents said they use mobile devices (voice, text, email)
to keep in touch with others. Forty-six percent used it to get information.

Adoption of
wireless technology has shot up 141 percent among African-Americans over
the past two years. Thirty-two percent used mobile devices in 2007 and
now the number stands at 48 percent.

Discussion Questions:
How is the adoption of wireless technology by consumers going to change
retailing? What is the next “big thing” coming in wireless?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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9 Comments on "Look Ma! No Wires"

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Bob Phibbs
12 years 9 months ago

Technology will continue to make it easy for employees to connect to friends while on your sales floor, on your time clock and as customers are shopping your store. I expect management to be further frustrated at how impossible it will be to capture an employee’s full attention. That is bound to lower the customers’ experience which will encourage them to scan product in-store and purchase online. Not a recipe for profitability.

Steve Montgomery
12 years 9 months ago

There are many ways today to reach someone wirelessly–voice, email, internet, and twitter (and some I am sure I missed). Some are more applicable for retailers’ use than others. For example, I don’t foresee people wanting retailers to call them to announce the latest specials and/or leaving them voice mail messages. As noted by Mr. Phibbs, that does not mean retail employees will not continue to receive and place calls (or other forms of wireless communication) while working.

So that leaves non-voice options. Consumers get a variety of email messages from retailers today announcing new items, specials, etc, but my Lands’ End Special offering on new logo’d clothing is far better read on a larger screen. The limiting factor for Twitter is really that it requires a short message. Until and unless retailers can determine how to make a compelling offer on a very small screen, I don’t see this having a huge impact.

Matthew Spahn
Matthew Spahn
12 years 9 months ago

The adoption of wireless will change the face of retailing in several ways.

Consumers will now be fully in command and often will be more knowledgeable about products than the sales people in the store due to accessibility of online product research.

Retailers will also have yet another channel to communicate offers that are timely and highly targeted. GPS, WiFi, and voice-activated dialing are in high demand among wireless devices which translates to location-based targeting opportunities for retailers.

In addition to locating family and friends, texting, taking photos/videos and making calls, these wireless smart devices will become electronic keys for your home or car.

Retailers who devise the right Apps that inform and entertain vs, just promote will win.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
12 years 9 months ago

I think the next big thing in wireless will be the delivery of electrical power from ports in the wall that beam electricity to portable devices. This will eliminate the need to plug appliances into the wall and cords will become obsolete.

Tests with the devices have gone well, but they cannot be used in places where pets or small children may be exposed to the beams. Several electrocutions have sent developers back to the laboratory. They need to figure out a way to avoid electrocuting anyone who walks in front of the beam.

Just kidding…It’s Friday.

Len Lewis
Len Lewis
12 years 9 months ago

Scan and payment systems via mobile phones. It’s being tested in Europe with mixed success. A few bugs to work out but it will happen.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
12 years 9 months ago
Thinking about it a little further, a more serious answer to this question for retailers is to continue improving on their ability to deliver goods directly to the consumer. In many categories (e.g. FMCG) the role of the store is shifting more and more towards product distribution rather than “shopping.” Retailers who have an easy-to-use website, combined with a convenient delivery mechanism will become the preferred source. This does not always mean delivery direct to the home. I really believe there is an opportunity for “drive up” delivery. This avoids all the hassles of maintaining the cold chain directly to the home and allows the customer do speed up their acquisition. You can imagine how this whole thing might work, with drive up windows along the side of a “pick-up center.” I don’t think it would be wise to try to do this without a facility designed for the purpose. Conceivably you could have employees walk a regular store, but I don’t think that would be worth it. The goal would be to minimize the… Read more »
Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
12 years 9 months ago
The trend here is an important component of what I refer to as the “Amazonification” of stores. As shoppers become connected 24/7/365, and the location of their device identifies them and their locations, it is a no-brainer for bricks and mortar retailers to begin to relate to shoppers in much the way that Amazon (and other online merchants) relates to them. This will include recognizing when they are in the vicinity, have arrived, where they are in the store–as an indication of what their current needs and desires might be. This will be the foundation of highly relevant personal offers, leading to massive increases in sales. The astute retailer today can begin to THINK like the advanced retailer of tomorrow, by “personalizing” offers. The offers are “personal,” not in the sense of being individual, but by focusing on just exactly what the persons in this aisle are most likely to be wanting to buy. Come on! It is not the 4000 items on display in this aisle, but one or a few things purchased here… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
12 years 9 months ago

One of the things to watch out for is a vocal minority who have a physical problem with wireless technology. I was listening to a radio interview with a sufferer today and his problems sounded horrific. He acknowledged that there is little or nothing to be done about it but once word gets out, I’m sure there will be considerable publicity and perhaps even a backlash in support.

I think retailers also need to beware of overkill. Sure, technology is popular now and millions of people cannot bear not to be constantly available and in touch but too much advertising and promotion may cause them to reach saturation point. It may remain a way of life for lots of people but only if boundaries are recognized and not pushed too far.

The next big thing in wireless could possibly be a great big invisible wall.

Shilpa Rao
12 years 9 months ago

Retailers can leverage this opportunity by not only offering targeted products and “experience” on line or on mobile devices, but also by bringing this experience in store. In a WiFi/Bluetooth enabled store, the customer handheld devices (like PDA and Cell phones) could be used to send information about products and personalized offers while the customer is in store, triggering more impulse purchases. Based on user preferences, retailers could also help the customer connect with twits, product reviews and review from friends while shopping. This could further be extended to sending out pictures and posting it on a social networking site to get opinions on which dress looks the best or which product to choose. Being connected in the store, customers can experience “shopping with friends,” sometimes even across the globe.


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