Mobile and shopping: Mobilise the path to purchase

Gareth Ellen with Orit Peleg, Martin Lange and Hugh Boyle

The ubiquitous mobile phone is revolutionising the way we shop. Brands need to understand and respond to the merging of the consumer and shopper into a ‘Shopsumer’, who researches products and purchases on the hoof.

From waking until going to bed, we live these days attached, as if through an umbilical cord, to our mobile phones - connected at all times to a world far larger than the one our eyes take in. This essential fact is already changing all aspects of our day-to-day existence, and no part of our lives is undergoing a swifter sea change than shopping.

This revolution is driven not just by mobile phones but by the smartphone in particular. The numbers are starting to create mass-market effects. Smartphone penetration in the US and China (tier 1 cities) will exceed 50% by 2012. Google announced that mobile search traffic doubled in 2010 and has gone up five-fold in the past two years. The explosion of location-based services is providing obvious opportunities to shoppers and retailers. Four Square, the leader of that space, announced early in 2011 that it had hit six million registered users, who made a grand total of 381 million check-ins, globally, in the previous year. US-based Borrell Associates expects mobile couponing spending to grow from $90 million in 2009 to $6.5 billion in 2014, with location-based services becoming the energy behind a suite of hyper-local offers and shopper usage. With large-scale mass grocers getting involved, it is easy to see that shopper behaviour supported by mobile will be a mass-market activity very soon. But this mass-market opportunity cannot be served by old fashioned mass-market techniques. Shoppers have an intimate relationship with their mobile devices. In order to be invited into shoppers’ mobile circle of trust, brands and retailers must offer significant levels of value, but companies cannot survive in a shopper relationship by offering monetary value alone. Instead, brands and retailers need to provide multiple dimensions of shopper value in concert with emerging mobile shopping behaviour to capitalise on mutually beneficial opportunities.