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The Digital Path to Purchase is Increasingly Mobile

February 4, 2016


“There’s a new boss in town and she is tougher than any boss you’ve had before,” writes James LeTart (@JLeTartcomm), Director of Thought Leadership at JDA Software. “She wants what she wants, when and where she wants it. She’s the new digitally-empowered consumer and she is dictating how retailers and consumer goods companies must transform their supply chains to serve her.”[1] I’m certain LeTart selected the pronoun “she” very carefully when he wrote his article. According to Y&R, “she,” the female digitally-empowered consumer, finds herself on the digital path to purchase more often than her male counterpart. “Y&R looked at different profiles of US shoppers and revealed that mobile warriors — those who primarily research and purchase products via smartphone — use their smartphones to compare prices, get information, receive coupons and make purchases. When it comes to the demographic profile of these shoppers, females make up 53.4%, while males account for 46.6%.”[2] LeTart adds, “This new boss will access your brand wherever and whenever she wants through the device of her choice. There are no channels for her, just a demand for consistent, seamless shopping experiences. She’ll reward those brands who provide this shopping experience with her loyalty.”


Gender segmentation, however, never tells the whole story. Y&R also found that age plays a significant role in who uses mobile technology to make purchases. “31.7% of US shoppers who primarily research and purchase products via their smartphone are between the ages of 18 and 29. Additionally, 36.3% are ages 30 to 44. However, these smartphone shopping behaviors are not just limited to younger shoppers.” In other words, members Generations X and Y, who now make up the largest segment of the workforce and control the bulk of consumer spending, are the consumers most inclined to use mobile technologies on the digital path to purchase. You can’t discount older consumers either. According to the survey, “Consumers ages 45 and older also use their device to research and purchase” (see the attached chart).



Staff writers at eMarketer admit, “While mobile still accounts for a small share of total retail sales, retailers are feeling the impact of these devices.” The impact of mobile technologies is only going to increase as both digital natives and mobile technologies mature. According to comScore, between 2013 and 2015 time spent shopping on smartphones in the United States nearly doubled.[3] Time on other digital devices also rose, but not nearly as dramatically. Time spent shopping on desktop computers, for example, rose 38% during that same timeframe and time spent shopping on tablets rose 55% (although 2015 witnessed nearly a 10% decline in tablet usage from 2014).


Judy Chan, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Urban Airship Wallet, insists that retailers need to prioritize the development of a sound mobile strategy if they want to master the digital path to purchase. “Retailers,” she writes, “must take heed and prioritize mobile as a key communication and engagement channel. According to a survey from SessionM, more than 90 per cent of consumers use smartphones while shopping in retail stores and more than 54 per cent use their devices to compare prices, and search for product information and reviews.”[4]


Chan goes on to note that, in the future, a good mobile strategy must go beyond providing a seamless omnichannel experience for consumers, it must also consider how consumers are going to pay once they’ve made their purchasing decision. “With communication and engagement at the forefront of all good mobile marketing strategies,” she writes, “it’s important to consider another mobile technology tactic that will continue to impact the retail experience for brands and consumers alike: mobile wallets.” Since Chan works for a mobile wallet firm, one would expect her to promote mobile wallets. In this case, however, Chan is in good company. Helen Leggatt (@eBizReporter) reports, “A new study from Gartner forecasts that, within three years, half of consumers in mature markets will be using wearables or smartphones to make mobile payments.”[5] Three years is a very short planning horizon and the number of mobile payment methods available is undoubtedly causing confusion. Leggatt writes, “Three types of mobile payments or wallets were identified by Gartner, namely smartphones or wearable tech, branded mobile wallets from banks or credit cards and branded mobile wallets from retailers.”


In addition to mobile wallets, retailers are finding that shopping apps are becoming an important part of a mobile strategy. Cooper Smith and Nancee Halpin report, “US consumers are spending the majority of their time in shopping apps rather than mobile shopping websites, according to comScore. In response, Apple recently launched a new category in its App Store called ‘Shopping,’ which makes it easier for users to find retailers’ apps. Creating a dedicated section for retail apps is a huge benefit for brands that are looking to boost mobile app engagement, as searching the App Store is the No. 1 way users discover new apps.”[6] Chan adds:

“With mobile wallet, retailers can reach more of their customers without the investment, discovery and download hurdles of apps. A simple link click from anywhere — your web site, social channels, digital ads and more — stores the wallet pass within the device’s native mobile wallet. That’s not to say apps aren’t an important part of a complete mobile strategy. In fact, when paired with the mobile wallet, brands can create the ultimate cross-channel mobile experiences, automatically surfacing coupons or gift cards to device home screens based on locations or times, while offering a front door to deeper business interactions through apps.”

The rise of omnichannel marketing (driven by mobile technologies) has changed the business landscape forever. “Gone are the days of linear supply chains,” writes LeTart. “The convergence of physical and digital commerce through the consumer’s buy anywhere / deliver anywhere / return anywhere shopping journey is requiring retailers and consumer goods companies to rethink and transform their supply chains from a product-centric to a customer-centric focus.” He notes that the rise of the empowered consumer “has many implications for supply chain management.” The first among those implications is the fact that “companies have to get serious about finally establishing true end-to-end supply chain visibility.” They need to change how distribution centers operate. “They now must … handle large volumes of small order picking along with cartonization, parcel manifesting and parcel shipping.” LeTart believes that planning must also change. “Planning for consumer-driven omni-channel operations is much more complex than when ecommerce and store operations were separate. Basing inventory plans on what was shipped from DCs no longer is adequate because it doesn’t identify the source of the demand.” He concludes, “Suffice it to say that those companies that achieve end-to-end visibility, develop efficient omni-channel fulfillment operations, and transform their stores will be the winners going forward.”


[1] James LeTart, “How Consumers are Transforming Supply Chain,” Logistics Viewpoints, 1 December 2015.
[2] Retail & Ecommerce, “For Many Shoppers, Mobile Is Essential When Researching and Purchasing Products,” eMarketer, 7 January 2016.
[3] Cooper Smith and Nancee Halpin, “Five must-know retail trends in mobile and social marketing,” Business Insider, 12 December 2015.
[4] Judy Chan, “Mobile Wallets – More Than Money,” Mobile Marketing, 11 December 2015.
[5] Helen Leggatt, “50% of consumers in mature markets to use phones, smartwatches for mobile payments by 2018,” BizReport, 7 January 2016.
[6] Smith and Halpin, op. cit.

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