Smart phones becoming merchandising game changer

BOSTON — Competitive everyday-low-pricing strategies and lowest-price guarantees soon may become standard as use of mobile smart phones while shopping grows, according to a new GfK Roper poll, commissioned by SapientNitro, an integrated marketing and technology services firm.

Another key learning from the survey: The shopping experience is paramount.

“Portability is a game-changer in transforming the way that people shop,” stated Chris Davey, worldwide head of commerce at SapientNitro. “Technology is causing some of the biggest shifts in human behavior that we’ve seen in years, and consumers are more informed and empowered than ever. This has a major impact not only on the way that consumers shop but also on the way that retailers need to market to consumers this holiday season.”

The national survey found that of the 3-in-10 Americans who own a “smart phone” — e.g., an iPhone, Blackberry, Android-based phone or other type of Internet and application-enabled mobile phone — many are using it to their advantage while shopping. For example, of consumers with a smart phone, 30% are price-checking the products in an attempt to find a better deal elsewhere, while they are physically standing before the product at the store.

Those consumers also are using their smart phones before they get to that retailer with the “best buy.” Approximately 48% researched products they were thinking of purchasing on their smart phones, and 44% simply surfed the Internet in search of products. As many as 40% compared prices before reaching the store. And about 1-in-3 looked for discounts, deals, coupons or discount codes (35%) on their mobile phones, or checked product availability at retail stores or websites (34%). And then more than half (52%) have used their phones to find a store location.

Once they arrive in that store, those mobile phone users are sharing their experiences with their friends and family in real time. One-in-three (33%) reported that while out shopping, they e-mailed or texted someone to tell them about an experience at a store — such as finding a great deal or a great gift. And 1-in-5 (19%) used their phone to post something on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other social networking sites about their shopping experience.

Of those Americans who already have started their holiday shopping, 53% said they purchased a product in a physical retail store after researching the product online. And nearly half (44%) purchased a product online after shopping for a similar item in a physical store.