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UK leads in smart(phone) shopping adoption

Tuesday January 24 2012

Retail technology business consultant, Steven Skinner, discusses the findings of a global study of consumer purchasing habits, which has revealed that UK consumers are tech-savvy when it comes to shopping and are not interested in coupons for purchasing items compared with other global regions

Retail technology business consultant, Steven Skinner, discusses the findings of a global study of consumer purchasing habits, which has revealed that UK consumers are tech-savvy when it comes to shopping and are not interested in coupons for purchasing items compared with other global regions

 

“Our research, carried out among 4,000 shoppers globally, has shown that the recent explosion in the smartphone and the web-based technology market has led to a whole new way of shopping,” said Steven Skinner, vice president of retail and consumer goods business consulting at IT services provider, Cognizant.

 

Advances in technology have resulted in a new generation of tech savvy customers and present businesses with golden opportunities. By adopting the right strategies and approaches, Skinner said businesses can tap into this new demographic of tech savvy consumers.

 

Keeping pace with buying habits

 

With the meteoric rise of the smartphone and the ubiquity of web-based technology, there has been a dramatic change in consumer buying habits. According to the IDC, the global smartphone market is on track to grow 55% in 2011. “There is no doubt that mobile and social media have had an impact on influencing people’s buying decisions. Consumers are shown as preferring to research products on the internet via their smartphones prior to purchasing, which is something retailers need to be aware of,” continued Skinner.

 

“Our study highlighted that the majority of customers who use web-based technology for researching items were UK-based, with the UK coming out on top as the most tech-savvy when compared to other countries around the globe. The use of price comparison websites is also the most widely used in the UK and another strong factor in the decision-making process before buying an item. Additionally, the research demonstrated that UK customers were less likely to rely on coupons or to ask family and friends before purchasing a product compared to other global regions, such as the US.”

 

He added that the research also shows that people who are the most likely to pay for items via their personal mobile devices were those who have grown up surrounded by technology. These individuals have been coined “generation Y”. Previous generations were more cautious of the new technology and still have privacy or security concerns with the new technology. But this is changing, as highlighted in Mary Portas’ independent review into the future of our high streets, which revealed that in 2015 we’ll be spending more than £40 billion a year over the internet and through mobile devices. It also pointed to a dramatic growth in ‘m-commerce’ – sales over mobile devices – of more than 500% in the last two years. “It shows that retailers need to start taking this channel seriously and learn to use these new technologies to their advantage, rather than fall behind the rest of the market,” Skinner warned.

 

Identifying where the opportunities lie

 

Within a global context, he said South Korea is the furthest ahead with mobile payments where the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for mobile payments is the most prevalent and has the gained the widest acceptance among consumers. “Although common in Oyster cards in London, the west appears to be behind in implementing this new technology for mobiles, and there is still some way to go in gaining acceptance within mobile payments,” Skinner added.

 

“Many UK shoppers are still cautious and rely on a human face for any problems during a retail experience. This caution, coupled with the disruption that will be caused through technological restructuring, may lead to a slower adoption of NFC. Retailers have so far been reluctant as they will have to implement changes within stores for enabling NFC mobile payments, but with recent NFC announcements from the likes of Google and BlackBerry, they’ll have to embrace it.”

 

Cognizant’s research findings not only show a change in consumer purchasing preferences towards a more knowledgeable and savvy UK consumer, but also identify an incredible opportunity for businesses now and in the future. “Businesses and retailers will be able to learn how they can better tailor and personalise the consumer experience, using the smartphone as a key entry point, to help customers make more informed decisions when they are shopping. It’s time they capitalised on this,” concluded Skinner.