Have you ever wandered into a supermarket that wasn’t your local and tried to find what you consider to be a simple, staple item; the butter, Vegemite or a packet of pasta? Was it easy? Or was it an entirely frustrating experience that had you scurrying up and down every aisle in search of the item that in your local supermarket sits in aisle three, next to the Tim Tams? I have, and as much as I enjoyed pretending that I was a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, the experience was overall a painful one.  Assuming that I am not alone, I’m pleased to let you know that thanks to the personal media devices (smartphones, tablets) that over 50% of us now carry around, there is better way to shop.

The benefits that personal media devices bring to both retailers and shoppers alike stem from the ability of these devices to ease points of pain in the shopping experience. These points of pain can occur at any time in the consumer journey, be that before the purchase, during the purchase or after the purchase. Understanding where personal media devices can be used to address these points of pain will ultimately lead to a positive impact across the key retail drivers: loyalty, frequency and basket size.

A great example of this is the Woolworth’s iPhone and Android application launched last year and downloaded by over 1.4 million Australians. Understanding that finding products in a foreign supermarket is a major point of pain for many consumers (myself included!), Woolworths implemented a solution that enables users to build a shopping list and have that list mapped out by aisle according to the store they intend to shop at. Further to this, users can search for over 50,000 products to add to their shopping list, add them in manually or use the barcode scanner in the application to scan them in. By making the shopping experience simpler and more convenient, Woolworths is hoping that consumers will not only be more loyal to the brand but also increase the frequency at which they shop and the value of their spend. At a time when many market commentators appear to have limited positivity about the strength of the Australian retail sector, the success of initiatives such as this clearly demonstrates that consumers have an appetite to engage and transact on their personal media device.

This is just one example of how personal media devices can be used in the retail context. Before I shop I can use my device to research, read reviews and call the store for more information if I need it. A recent study from Google and IPSOS Research found that 49% of Australian consumers had used their device to research a product or service before they purchased. I can use my smartphone or tablet to find a store, get directions and use it to assist me while shopping. In fact, states iModerate Research Technologies, over 70% of iPhone owners use their smartphone to help them when they are in the store. I can also browse a product range, save favourites and share items I intend to purchase with friends. I can have targeted offers sent to me, use the device to redeem vouchers, rate and give feedback on my overall experience. Most importantly I can purchase in any number of different ways.

Some retailers are using personal media devices to challenge the status quo. Big W’s iPhone application enables consumers to scan barcodes and compare prices of products at competing stores. If the item is stocked at Big W, the price will be displayed against that of the competition. “We are so confident that you won’t find any stocked item for less anywhere else that we want our customers to check for themselves,” stated Big W director Julie Coates.

With over 62% of smartphone users having purchased physical goods from their personal media device in the last six months according to a recent Adobe Survey, it is staggering to learn that over 80% of Australian retailers do not have an optimised experience for this audience. Consumers are spending more time on their devices than ever before, a trend that is going to accelerate further in 2012. This then presents a fantastic opportunity for those retailers who can successfully tap into this exploding market. By empowering consumers to research, find, share and purchase on device, retailers can build new audience, make existing ones more loyal and very positively impact the bottom line. If your business is not engaging with consumers on their device in 2012, a huge opportunity is being missed.

Chris Watt
BY Chris Watt ON 20 January 2012
General manager, Tigerspike