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Mobile shopping25% of shoppers are using mobile phones as part of the buying process when in retail stores, using phones to compare prices and look for reviews or recommendations from friends.

A recent survey suggests that retailers have an opportunity to get more mobile users shopping instore by providing them with mobile apps and more mobile-friendly websites to allow customers to access this information to help make a purchase decision. 

The Foresee survey found that the majority of shoppers using mobiles in stores weren't taking advantage of mobile internet and mobile apps to find the information they wanted, but were calling friends for recommendations or sending pictures of items they were thinking of buying:

Customer use of mobike phones when shopping

Smaller numbers were using the internet for price comparison or product reviews, and this consumer activity is set to grow with increased smartphone adoption and simplified mobile internet tariffs, but currently UK mobile users are not well served in this area.

There are some good third-party mobile sites which allow for product comparison, though they are limited in some areas. Kelkoo has a mobile app which allows shoppers to search for products and compare prices, while Reevoo recently released a dedicated iPhone site which is excellent for providing product reviews but doesn't give the same price information as the main website.

At the moment, I find it easier to head to the Amazon mobile site for product information when shopping instore, as it seems to have reviews for many of the products I shop for, and provides a price for comparison.

Some US mobile apps are becoming more sophisticated than this; Big in Japan and CompareEverywhere have developed apps that will make the process easier by allowing customers to scan barcodes using the Google Android platform (the iPhone camera cannot deal with barcodes) and will return price comparison results for other local retailers.

For US iPhone users there is SnapTell. Simply take a picture of covers of books, CDs, games and DVDs, and it will return price and product information to allow for comparison. 

The survey also found that mobile users displayed a greater propensity to purchase offline, though the margins are relatively narrow (62 to 58). This suggests that retailers can benefit from making price information and product reviews more accessible to customers.

There are a number of ways this could be achieved; for braver retailers ready to have their prices compared with rivals, this facility could be provided instore, or else by providing accessible mobile sites with product information and customer reviews. If customers can find enough of the information they want, they may not need to use rival retailer's or price comparison sites. Another option is to use the kind of mobile review services recently introduced by Bazaarvoice, which delivers reviews optimised for mobiles to instore shoppers.

Graham Charlton

Published 3 February, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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