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A remote control for the retail store

In the hands of shoppers, the smartphone is fast becoming a remote control for bricks and mortar retail.

It allows customers to interact with a retail environment on their terms in a more relevant and personal way than ever before.

Customers (if they are not already) will start to favour retailers (and manufacturers) that are smartphone friendly, switching off from those that are not.

From a shopper’s perspective, I want to be able to walk into a store with my smartphone and connect to the wi-fi network easily and instantly (free of charge of course).

I then want to be automatically served up a mobile-friendly store guide via my web browser, and not have to download and open a separate app.

I’d prefer personal offers that are pertinent to me, redeemable in store, and not broadcast deals for the masses. (Storewide promotions will decrease in the future and we will see more “stealth pricing” – individual deals.)

I want to be able to scan a product or an associated code at the shelf (QR or otherwise) and find out more information, and I will compare prices whether you like it or not.

And I’d also like to pay via my mobile.

Smartphones help customers stay in control of the three most critical aspects of the shopping experience – time, money and angst. Happy shoppers are reflected in results at the till.

A recent study from TNS (the world’s largest shopper research company) shows that those with smartphones spend a third less time in store than traditional shoppers, but buy 15 per cent more.

According to TNS, what you are seeing are the “Golden Rules of Shopper” in action – “connect shoppers to what they want to buy, and close the sale quickly”.

The Google & Ipsos 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study shows that more than half of North American shoppers will use their smartphone in store this Christmas. Of course, that’s only part of the new digital path to purchase.

Mobiles now infiltrate every point on the path as both a research and purchase tool. For instance, customers can equally use their smartphones to research instore or buy on the bus.

To borrow a phrase from Google, the smartphone screen is the “digital store window” of today. Open it up to shoppers and you will reap the benefits. Ignore it and you are literally shutting up shop.

Jon Bird is chairman of specialist retail marketing agency IdeaWorks and Inside Retail’s publisher, Octomedia. Email:, Blog:, Twitter: @thetweetailer

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