You’d be surprised how many people know some Latin – specifically the phrase, “caveat emptor.”
It means “let the buyer beware.” But a newly-released Pew Research Center study on consumers’ in-store use of mobile devices suggests that “caveat emptor” no longer reflects reality. “Caveat venditor” should be the new watchword – “let the seller beware.”
Smartphones have shifted the balance. They are history’s best shopping advisors.
Everybody has one, and that leaves brands no room for error. If a product’s quality, packaging, messaging, or customer value is dipping, shoppers checking their phones will know it in a flash exactly when they’re making up their minds, and will act accordingly.
The good news for brands and marketers is that the same smartphones that arm shoppers with unprecedented information can do the same for them – if they leverage phones’ vast capabilities with true-mobile consumer research. Pew Research Center recently published a study that lays out the new mobile landscape of in-store shopping:
- 59% of U.S. adults report having used their phones while in a store to call or text someone to get buying advice.
- It’s also common now for shoppers to go online from the store aisles – 45% of Pew’s respondents said they had used their phones to look up product reviews or gather other information about a potential in-store purchase, and 45% said they’d made price comparisons with their phones.
- In the 30-49 age bracket, 72% reported calling or texting someone for buying advice, 62% said they’d looked up product reviews with their phones, and 61% had made price comparisons.
- Among 18-29 year olds, 68% called or texted for advice, 63% looked up reviews, and 64% did online price comparisons.
- Despite predictions that online shopping eventually will doom physical stores, Pew found that a solid majority of Americans still relishes the real-time, in-person shopping experience; 65% of respondents who had bought things online said that going to the store was their first choice.
And why not? When they go to a store, their phones give them the best of both worlds – the ability to eyeball real merchandise, augmented with instant e-commerce alternatives if what they’re seeing live isn’t appealing.
To understand this information-rich landscape for in-store shoppers, you need insight-rich data that only smartphones can provide. You can turn consumers’ phones into your own data source and your own valued advisor.
- The location feature on every smartphone makes it possible to talk to shoppers while they’re in the very act of deciding what to buy.
- Respondents receive an in-app survey that embeds in their phones, removing the need for an online connection.
- You can choose to reach shoppers in-store, or wait and send them an after-visit survey they’ll receive right when they leave, using GPS-enabled technology.
- You can ask about all tangible aspects of the shopping experience – shelf placement, packaging, in-store messaging.
- You can get inside shoppers’ minds when their focus on your product category is most intense.
- You can identify your product’s natural buyers and follow up with an in-home product evaluation study.
- Knowing that shoppers are using their phones to make in-store buying decisions, you can ask them about the information they’re collecting -- and in what ways they are using it.
- Smartphone users love to receive pictures and videos – so why not enhance or frame your survey questions by sending visual elements?
- They also love to create and share pictures and videos. Ask shoppers to talk about their experiences and preferences in a selfie video, and you’ll achieve studies that have a vividly illuminating qualitative dimension.
The Pew study underscores that while smartphones have improved and expanded the in-store shopping experience, shoppers’ goals and desires are the same as ever: good value for a good product. In the same way, the traditional aims of survey-based market research remain unchanged.