Using Your Smartphone to Browse the Retail Racks

How mobile technology is changing how you shop.

By Michael Murphy on January 10, 2014

It’s no secret that the shopping experience is changing with the rise of smartphones and tablets. According to Harvard Business Review, the mobile transformation is affecting the whole shopping cycle from start to finish. This article is the fourth in a six-part series on retail trends in advance of the 2014 National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention being held next week in New York.

Today’s customers are applying mobile technology to brick-and-mortar purchase decisions, walking into stores with more information (and leverage) than ever before. Starting with research before a big shopping trip, all the way to the point of purchase, mobile technology has completely disrupted the traditional “browse-and-buy” retail model.  

By using a smartphone or tablet, you can get real-time product information, offers and promotions to use while you are shopping. Here’s how mobile technology can help you when you’re in a store.

When you first walk in.

Foursquare was at the forefront of offering customers location-based incentives when shopping. “Check in” at a store or restaurant that you are visiting, and Foursquare creates a rewards program to recognize you. Check in most often and Foursquare names you the “mayor,” providing you with exclusive offers at some participating places. Similarly, shopkick is another app that identifies your location and delivers messages as you walk into a partnering store, in many cases providing additional rewards and incentives.

When you are walking around.

BuyVia and RedLaser are examples of comparison shopping tools that reach consumers in-store, offering ways to review other prices and get the best deal. By scanning a product, you can see comparison prices on the same product in stores nearby, as well as coupons for the product. Retailers may honor competitors’ prices, or even negotiate, when you make your purchasing options known. 

When you are checking out.

Mobile loyalty programs offer consumers exclusive rewards and customized offers. Perka and Belly, for instance, allow businesses to offer you special discounts and deals once you’ve made a certain number of purchases or accumulated a specified number of points over time. So, for example, buying lunch at your favorite restaurant over the course of a month might earn you a free meal.

This article is part of a series on retail trends in advance of the 2014 National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention being held in New York.