OK, it’s time.

21 Jun 2015

Time for what?

Well, have a look at the shop floor. Can you see your customers? They’re there – that’s good.  How many have their mobile phones out?

Not so long ago, my guess would have been at least one in ten.  Certainly more than ever before.  But I wanted to be sure. So in the weekend, I donned my (not at all dubious) long coat and hat and did some surreptitious spying of my own.

Now, if I’m being entirely honest, my wife was going anyway.  So rather than tag along and hold the bags, I thought I’d do some secret shopper research while I was there.

I went around some of my (her) favourite stores in one of the largest shopping malls in Australia. I spent 9 hours looking at who shops, how they shop and if they use their mobile device to do it. I even talked to a few people – mostly when they weren’t put off by my questionable fashion.

Sure, it wasn’t the most scientific of research methodologies. But this sort of thing really interests me and the findings were surprising. They may even surprise you too.

We seem to be a country of shoppers wedded to our phones.  If we’re not silently singing to ourselves while we’re walking, we’re surfing the net while we’re waiting. We’re texting family, calling friends and messaging besties. We’re checking-in with Facebook and posting updates as we go. And we’re bringing this behaviour in-store.

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us. With smartphone penetration pushing 90%, Australia is one of the most mobile-centric countries in the world. But what seems to be changing is how this mobile centricity is influencing how people buy.

Over the weekend, I saw shoppers search for their preferred stores, find special offers on their favourites and query stock levels before they’ve even left the food court.  Some ordered there and then.  Others negotiated with their friends or family about the stores they wanted to check out first. I heard some moan about having to ‘come to the mall’ to return goods, and I heard others talk about what they need to collect on the way out.

I saw buyers with their phone in hand before they went in-store, while they were deciding and after they left.  And if you don’t think they’re checking your in-store price with your online price, or those of your competitors, think again.

Mobile shoppers can and do shop anywhere. And they seem to be doing most of this shopping (or at least most of the process of shopping) before they even walk in-store.

And if I had to guess how many buyers used their phones before, during or after going into a store, it would be a whole lot more than I first thought.  It’s at least eight out of ten.  At least.  So much for the 1:10.

But, then again, one can follow people around only for so long before starting to look dodgy.

So by all means, test this ad hoc buyer research yourself.  But if 9 hours has given me anything, aside from sore feet, it’s the realisation that it’s time. Mobile is here. Your buyers have already brought it with them.

So don’t you think it’s time to bring mobile in-store and make it work for you?

For more insight on buyer behaviour, check out our article on “What the hell is happening…”

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