The use of smartphones means that brands now have the means of providing their customers with a shopping experience that follows the natural flow of everyday life, getting the best out of both the online and offline worlds.

Smartphones Supporting a Mixed Online-Offline Shopping Experience

The use of mobile applications and services is exploding, bringing about a shake-up in many sectors such as retail and other related industries. Brands need to take fully on board the fact that the smartphone is now an integral part of the consumer’s life, and that they must go with the flow of the shift that is taking place. The ‘In-line Shopping Insight Report’*, a joint effort by the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies(CIFS) and Ericsson ConsumerLab, suggests that by 2017 a new shopping phenomenon will have taken firm hold – which the researchers dub ‘in-line shopping’ – that will be built around mobile applications. Research carried out by Ericsson ConsumerLab in a supermarket in Stockholm, Sweden showed that customers preferred a mix of the online and offline approach, the most popular service being a bar-code scanning app which provides information and a richer shopping experience at the point of sale.

Mobile taking centre-stage

What is happening, say the Danish-Swedish researchers, is that bricks-and-mortar stores, the Internet and mobile applications are becoming complementary links in the shopping chain. The In-line Shopping Insight points up some of the pros and cons of offline versus online. First, on the positive side, the Internet enables the user to compare prices easily. However, one of the chief drawbacks, expressed by over 30% of European consumers in the study, is having to wait for delivery of an item they have bought. Secondly, brands can now benefit from the increasing use of mobile apps to display product availability at a given store. Thirdly, today the smartphone goes everywhere with its owner from morning to night throughout all activities, at home, in the workplace and when moving around. Nowadays the comfort factor is the key aspect of any shopping experience and so making shopping part of the natural flow of customers’ everyday lives should be the key driver for every retail business model, suggests the report. Retailers need to “mobilise their store in the mind of their customers, while making it an integral part of everyday mobile life,” say CIFS-Ericsson ConsumerLab.

Best of both worlds

To do this however they need to create a mixed online - offline business model, and an increasing number of firms will be striving to enable the customer to get the best out of both worlds.  For example, in the United States, Amazon has put secure storage facilities in a number of 7-Eleven stores in order to provide customers with a more efficient and convenient delivery service. In Seoul and Copenhagen and inBarcelona, using PickBe’s smart shopping solution, brands display products bearing QR codes on shopping walls in the metro stations. All a customer has to do to order the item is scan the QR code. In the same vein, IKEA has developed an interactive catalogue for smartphone users, combining a traditional product catalogue with augmented reality in order to reproduce the interactive functionality customers are used to getting from online stores.

*Based on findings from the CIFS Members’ Report No.4 2012 plus a survey among a nationally representative sample of 1,500 internet users aged 15 and above in the United States.