New channels create new shopping experiences

Shopping is no longer a one-dimensional experience confined to the walls of a physical store. With mobile commerce for example, the ability to shop on-the-go is providing consumers with instant access to product information via their smart phones.

In research by Webloyalty we look at how applications like RedLaser, which allow customers to scan the barcodes of products they find in stores and access detailed product information on the move without having to ask a sales assistant, are streamlining the shopping experience, making it more suited to a faster-paced way of life. Scanning in a barcode also automatically compares prices for the product, allowing users to see where the same item is available in other stores and for what price. What’s more, if users have GPS location data enabled on their smart phones, the app will also narrow down the list of stores to shops nearby.

Other apps like Foursquare and VoucherCloud also use location data when shoppers ‘log-in’ to stores to inform users of special offers in other shops nearby. Smartphone users can even use online maps not only to find the location of a store, but also to find where a specific product is located within. And sites such as Amazon and iTunes have demonstrated that product reviews and other consumer feedback have become an integral and enjoyable part of the shopping process for many users, enabling other customers to make more informed buying decisions.

Beyond bringing a more engaging and flexible shopping experience to consumers, these technologies are revolutionising pricing transparency, empowering customers and proving to be dangerous tools for retailers.

While physical stores are still a vital channel for retail, their role is certainly changing and today, is much more variable than it was in the past. It is vital that retailers understand how their stores fit into the whole purchase decision-making process, and the role they play in consumer’s consumption experiences. Retailers must become embedded with the new processes mobile technology is enabling in order to stay relevant in the increasingly mobile and fast-paced world. Consumers now expect to be served instantly and mobile technology is a key way in which physical stores can keep up, for example via streamlining customers’ shopping experiences by enabling product location technology within large stores. Equally, retailers should encourage customers to scan barcodes next to items to access product information instantly using their smart phones.