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Mobile Shopping: It’s Not Just For the “Kids”

Posted On: June 5, 2014

New shopping trends seem to emerge all the time these days, and it’s natural to want to dismiss some of them as still being a ways off from “ripe.” Much like you wouldn’t invest yourself too heavily in a brand new social media network, you probably don’t want too many resources into a marketing area that doesn’t have widespread adoption yet.

However, it can hurt you to presume that just because something seems fairly new, it’s limited to a small portion of your potential customer base. Specifically, just because something’s based on a growing technology, that doesn’t mean only young, tech-savvy consumers are using it.

That brings us to mobile devices. We’ve been beating the drum on mobile marketing for a while now: Smartphones are quickly becoming universally used devices, and that’s not just among younger generations. These days you’ll find Baby Boomers trading in their conventional mobile phones for the latest and greatest in portable computing devices.

That might not be a shock, but you might find this a bit more surprising: A recent study shows that older generations are following in their younger counterparts’ footsteps when it comes to using smartphones to find local businesses, read reviews and shop right from their phones.

The new study, conducted by Thrive Analytics and released by the Local Search Association, indicates that Boomers and even older generations are embracing mobile as a local shopping companion. In fact, age turns out to be a much smaller than expected factor in determining mobile usage and preference during the purchasing process.

The study surveyed more than 1,050 smartphone users in January. It was representative of the U.S.
smartphone population, with respondents divided into four groups: Gen Y (18-29), Gen X (30-43), Young Boomers (44-53) and Older Boomers & Seniors (54-up). (And if some of you think those early 40s participants really should have been counted as Gen X, we agree with you, but it wasn’t our study.)

Here are the big takeaways from the survey:

Shoppers in every demographic are using their smartphones for research and information while shopping in-store

While younger respondents were more likely than older respondents to use their smartphones every time they shop in-store, the majority of both demographics said they used their smartphones at least sometimes when shopping in-store.

In fact, 97 percent of Gen Y shoppers and 91 percent of Gen X shoppers said they use their smartphones to compare prices and gather information in-store. A full 81 percent of Young Boomers (remember, that’s ages 44-53) said they do the same, while 69 percent of Older Boomers/Seniors (54-up) say they do the same.

Virtually no one in any demographic feels guilty about using their smartphones in-store

Across the board, consumers no longer feel guilty about comparison shopping or looking up discounts on items while shopping in-store, according to the survey. They don’t feel a need to hide what they’re doing from store employees.

It’s perhaps surprising is that Older Boomers/Seniors felt the least concerned with using their smartphones in-store. Only 6 percent said they felt guilty or would try to hide their activity from store personnel. The statistic was 8 percent for Gen Y and Young Boomers and 10 percent for Gen Y.

Smartphone users are open to shopping elsewhere depending on the information they discover while researching in-store.

Respondents across all age groups said they were willing to stop moving forward with a purchase based on new information they discovered via their smartphone while shopping in-store.

In this case, the statistics did favor younger consumers somewhat, with 65 percent of Gen Y and 62 percent of Gen X participants saying they’d be willing to shop elsewhere. However, almost half of Young Boomers (45 percent) said they’d do the same, as did more than a third (37 percent) of Older Boomers/Seniors.

What This Means to You

If you own a brick-and-mortar retail establishment, be aware that consumers of all ages have no issue with comparison shopping, checking out product reviews, and checking out user reviews of your business right from their phones — even while they’re standing in your store.

This is the reality of retail shopping in 2014 and beyond. UPC scanners on phones make it incredibly easy for a consumer to scan an item on your shelf and see whether your price compares favorably with that of other establishments.

Of course, the price for an item on Amazon or another online site will regularly be lower than that of an in-store item. The consumer has to weigh whether the lower price is worth waiting for the item to ship and paying for shipping.

It’s also much easier to return a problematic item to a local store than to do the same online. On the other hand, many Amazon buyers don’t have to pay sales tax on those items, so that’s a factor as well.

One thing is clear: Local businesses should take advantage of their opportunity to build ongoing relationships with customers they want to reach by incentivizing existing and potential customers through mobile offers and discounts. Mobile isn’t going away; smart business owners will roll with the changes instead of fighting them.

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