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79pc of smartphone users want mobile coupons: Accenture

A global survey by Accenture on mobile devices and shopping highlights how the growing use of smartphone technology and the economic downturn have encouraged cost-conscious consumers to explore alternative retail channels such as mobile to secure bargains.

Smartphone users would find it useful to download money-off coupons to their phones (79 percent) and receive instant money-off coupons as they pass by an item in a store (73 percent), according to the study. Conversely, fewer than half (48 percent) of smartphone users have downloaded a coupon from their PCs. 

“Today’s tech-savvy consumer has high expectations—a seamless shopping experience, where they want it, when they want it,” said Lisa Mitnick, managing director of mobility at Accenture, Washinton. “Bricks-and-mortar may not serve the same needs in the same way in the near future.

“We’re already seeing physical retail sites being used as a product showroom where shoppers can touch and feel items and then shop online,” she said. “Today’s consumer is more likely to forget their purse or wallet at home than their mobile phone.

“Unlike a card sitting unseen in a purse or wallet, and unlike sales offers that come through the post or email, a mobile coupon can deliver incentives to consumers wherever they are, targeting them for timely promotions and, in the future, even reaching them when they are in physical proximity to a retail location.”

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, serving clients in more than 120 countries.

Mobile coupons are in demand
According to Accenture, the findings of its study of 1,000 consumers in 10 countries suggest that couponing could become a more important part of the retail experience as smartphone technology becomes more widespread, and if retailers are adept at using customer analytics to target messages and deals to consumers.

Notably, 48 percent of conventional mobile phone users plan to buy a smartphone in the next year.

The results of the survey also indicate that smartphone technology is changing the relationship between customers and retailers.

Many smartphone users said that they prefer using their mobile device rather than interacting with a store employee for simple tasks.

According to the survey, 73 percent favor using their smartphone to handle simple tasks, compared to 15 percent who favor interaction with an employee.

Similarly, 71 percent favor using their smartphone to identify a store with a desired item in stock, while 17 percent would prefer to get that information by speaking to an employee.

Privacy, however, remains a key concern of consumers, and could have a negative impact on the growing use of smartphones for shopping.

More than half of respondents (54 percent) worry that using smartphones will erode their privacy.

Among the other smartphone shopping concerns voiced, 59 percent of respondents fear losing the personal touch from store employees, and 39 percent believe that products would get more expensive.

Among the additional survey findings:

• 69 percent of smartphone users are aware of smartphone applications from large retailers and 48 percent have downloaded at least one application

• 90 percent of consumers who have downloaded an application from a large retailer found it “very useful” or “useful”

• 56 percent believe smartphones will make the shopping experience more enjoyable

The survey was programmed and hosted online by Lightspeed Research and designed to obtain interviews with 100 respondents in ten markets—the U.S., France, Spain, Italy, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Japan, China and India.

To qualify for the survey, respondents needed to have home access to the Internet through a computer or netbook and carry a mobile phone or smartphone with them when they leave home.

Within each country’s sample, quotas were set as follows:

• 50 male, 50 female

• 50 respondents aged 18-35 years of age, and 50 respondents over 35 years of age

• 70 respondents who carry smartphones when they leave home, and 30 respondents who carry conventional mobile phones. Some report carrying both.

Advice for brands, retailers and merchants
Mobile technology is transforming the consumer retail experience, as well as the business and operating models of the entire retail industry.

The future of retail is no longer a choice between the physical and the digital—the company that offers an innovative experience that can combine the best of both worlds will be successful.

Ms. Mitnick said that soon nearly all shoppers will come into the store with smartphones and will expect to use this device as integral part of their shopping experience.

Consumers use their smartphones to check and compare prices, to read product reviews and to participate in expanded loyalty programs that are tailored to the immediate interests of the shopper, such as money-off coupons issued at point of display.

“One of the key challenges for retailers will be to rethink the role of in-store employees,” Ms. Mitnick said. “The research shows that shoppers prefer to handle some traditional in-store interactions through their smartphones rather than through an employee, such as asking for notification when an item is back in stock.

“However, shoppers still value the in-store employee when it comes to such things as advice on what clothing looks on them and how to use a home improvement product,” she said. “While the store of the future will have many technical bells and whistles, in-store employees will be a critical factor that makes the in-store experience unique and that cannot be replicated in an online setting.

“The trick will be to use this expensive human asset in the most productive way possible.”

Final Take