More shopping on mobile phones this holiday season

According to the International Telecommunication Union, there will be 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers by the end of 2010 – roughly 77 percent of the world’s population.With global technological connectivity and the ability for the consumer to buy anything, anywhere at any time, retailers are aggressively experimenting with new technology – smart phones.Primary users of smart phones, like Blackberries, Androids and iPhones, and mobile shopping tend to be younger. According to International Data Corporation, two-thirds of the mobile shopping audience is comprised of 25- to 44-year-olds.With all of the speed and power packed into mobile phones, app stores – the concept made popular by Apple’s App Store in 2008 – are offering thousands of software applications, including those used for entertainment, navigation, social networking, news, banking, and yes – shopping.The Mobile Marketing Association reports 59 percent of mobile phone users expect to use their cell phone or smart phone for holiday shopping or to organize celebrations this year.Users are comparing prices, searching for directions to stores, finding gift ideas, managing shopping lists, and reserving, booking and using tickets for holiday entertainment, all from their mobile phones.NexTag and PriceGrabber are two popular shopping apps which can be used to research prices of online retailers by scanning the product bar code to conduct a search.Google Shopper allows users to read product reviews, compare prices of online and local stores, as well as receive detailed directions on how to find a store.Consumers who walk into one of Shopkick’s partner stores (such as Best Buy, Target and Macy’s) or scan bar codes of specific products at one of these stores, receive reward points that can be redeemed for free gift cards.King Ring also uses bar code scanner technology to create a digital copy of loyalty cards. Retailers scan the bar code on the mobile phone at the time of checkout.And retailers themselves are notifying shoppers via their mobile phones of special deals, coupons and loyalty programs.Implications for retailersDuring the first week of December, an informal mobile phone/app shopping study was conducted at Franklin Pierce University, surveying 115 male and female undergraduate business students.The results suggest both genders are using smart phones, with 48 percent claiming to own a smart phone. This represents a 39 percent increase over last year’s ownership rate of just 9 percent. And nearly half of those who don’t own a smart phone this year intend to purchase one next year.More importantly to retailers, 21 percent indicated they had at least one shopping related app installed on their smart phone, and 10 percent of smart phone shoppers scanned the bar code of the product they were investigating.The Franklin Pierce study also showed 20 percent of the respondents used comparative shopping sites during this holiday season, with Bizrate, Shopzilla, Google Shopping and Amazon as the most popular.Product reviews and price checks for consumer electronics were the most popular followed by sporting goods and clothing/shoes/accessories.What are the implications for New Hampshire retailers?As part of an overall marketing plan, retailers should be targeting the teen to middle-aged market segment with mobile phone marketing strategies.Local stores that sell items in popular product search categories, such as consumer electronics, sporting goods, clothing and jewelry, should make this a priority.As with any interactive technology, mobile marketing can be researched by retailers, offering insight into who their consumers are, how they are using their phones, where they are located, and how they are responding to various incentives.Dr. Jason C. Little is an associate professor of marketing and e-commerce at Franklin Pierce University.