Google examines how shoppers use smartphones

June 12, 2013 8:23:33 PM PDT
Google is taking a closer look at how people use smartphones when they're out shopping. They're telling retailers they need to make fast friends with phones -- unless they want them to become the enemy.

Smartphones are always with us. And in a conference room full of executives, a Google research team explained, we don't put our phones away just because we're shopping. In fact, their new study shows quite the opposite.

"It's really just about everyone; 8 in 10 people are using their phones to help shop while in store," Adam Grunewald of the Google Digital Research Group said.

Everything from comparing prices to taking pictures, even getting directions to a competitor's store.

Last holiday season, there was outcry from retailers about so-called "showroomers" who'd go play with products at products at a store while checking for cheaper prices online. The Google study suggests showroomers are the majority.

"These aren't people who are playing Angry Birds while they're waiting for someone to try on clothing, these are people that are using their phone to explicitly help them achieve tasks related to shopping," Grunewald said.

The bottom line is we're shopping with our phones in hand whether companies like it or not. But the study found that might not actually be hurting retailers. It may even be helping them. ?

"We found that more mobile phone use meant bigger purchases in store," Grunewald said.

Google says in part, that's because people are reading reviews and learning about products. The phone is taking over the job of the salesperson and doing it better.

"Because store employees don't get to, like, sleep next to my bed at night, right, and I don't place the same kind of faith sometimes in store employees that I do with my smartphone," Grunewald said.

The take-away for retailers: make it as easy as possible for shoppers to use their phones and have a phone-friendly web site for them to find when they do.

But that doesn't mean every store should have an app. The study found nobody wants that. Most shoppers use search engines to find what they want.


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