Smart phones may make for smart shopping, new survey finds

NEW YORK — Consumers see smart phones as future personal, coupon-clipping shopper assistants, a global survey released Monday by Accenture found. According to the survey, 79% of smart-phone users would find it useful to download money-off coupons to their phones, and 73% of those shoppers would be receptive to being pinged with instant money-off coupons as they passed by an item in a store.

It may become the new way for marketers who didn’t make the kitchen table shopping list to reach shoppers at the shelf. “Smart phones will permanently change the relationship between the store and the shopper,” stated Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s retail practice. “Today’s tech-savvy consumer wants a seamless shopping experience across store, mobile or online at a time that suits [him or her]. Ultimately, this trend will lead to a new definition of the store; purpose, place and size are all up for debate. Already we are seeing some shoppers treating stores more like a showroom to test products and then making their purchase online.”

The results of the survey indicated that smart phone technology is changing the relationship between customers and retailers. Many smart phone users said that they preferred using their mobile device rather than interacting with a store employee for simple tasks. According to the survey, 73% favored using their smart phone to handle simple tasks compared with 15% who favored interaction with an employee. Similarly, 71% favored using their smart phone to identify a store with a desired item in stock, while 17% would have preferred to get that information by speaking to an employee.

Almost half (48%) of conventional cell phone users planned to buy a smart phone in the next 12 months, the survey found.

Privacy, however, remained a key concern of consumers and could have a negative impact on the growing use of smart phones for shopping. More than half of respondents (54%) worried that using smart phones would erode their privacy. Among the other smart phone shopping concerns voiced — 59% of respondents feared losing the personal touch from store employees and 39% believed that products would get more expensive.

“The greater use of smart phones for shopping creates opportunities and challenges for retailers in equal measure,” Hoffman said. “Companies need to use all of their customer information to better understand how and when their customers want to engage with them, ask them questions or just check some basic product details. Only then can they deliver a personalized and enjoyable experience while lessening the risk of alienating customers through unwanted approaches.”

According to Andy Zimmerman, global managing director of mobility services at Accenture, these survey results are an early indicator that mobile applications will transform how businesses compete with one another and interact with their customers. "Companies that successfully integrate the location-based services, commerce, payment and other capabilities of the smart phone into their traditional businesses stand to gain significant competitive advantage over the coming years,” he said.

Among the survey findings:

  •  69% of smart phone users are aware of smart phone applications from large retailers, and 48% have downloaded at least one application;

  • 90% of consumers who have downloaded an application from a large retailer found it “very useful” or “useful”; and

  • 56% believed smart phones will make the shopping experience more enjoyable.

The full survey is available at Accenture.com/MobileRetail.