Mobile internet changing the marketplace

19 Aug 11 07:00AM EST
Post by Brendan Mays
There’s no doubt that internet on the go is becoming much more common. Nearly 12 million Australians now have an internet-capable mobile phone, and over half of those are smartphones, according to Nielsen’s Australian Online Consumer Report.

Tablet computer sales are on the rise too and web developers are creating increasingly mobile-friendly websites and applications; many companies now have websites specifically designed for tablet computers and mobiles.

This is affecting the marketplace, but not necessarily in the ways you might imagine. We already know that online sales are on the rise, but the advent of increasingly mobile technology has presented a unique opportunity to traditional bricks and mortar retailers to take back some ground in this space.

Some retailers have already capitalised on this development by utilising geo-location applications to present shoppers with special deals. The applications (commonly used with Facebook) allow you to check into a location, like a restaurant or shop. Once you sign in, participating businesses can then trigger a voucher to appear on your screen. 7-Eleven recently put the idea into practice offering $1 Cokes to customers who check in to their stores, and others are following suit.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Barcode scanner apps are also growing in popularity. They allow you to access some of the benefits of online shopping in traditional stores. RedLaser, for example, allows users in the US to scan barcodes in store with their phone and compare prices from multiple locations (both online and other stores) along with accessing information such as reviews, nutritional info or whether other locations have an item in stock. This is a big win for price transparency.

The practical usability of these applications will only improve, as more people and stores adapt the technology. For those of us who enjoy the physical process of browsing products but also want to be able to research information and find the lowest prices, the two worlds converging presents a great opportunity.

And it doesn’t end there either. Adding a chip to a mobile phone to turn it into a payment device (like a credit card) is already possible. This could eventually help reduce the need for queues and allow stores to combine online discounts (like the ones above) or loyalty bonuses and apply them automatically to payments. On the other hand, it could lead to security concerns or other unforseen problems.

Bricks and mortar has an opportunity to improve customer service too – potentially a make-or-break factor. For example, what if you could access store assistance from a mobile device instead of waiting for a sales clerk? It’s not too hard to imagine checking into a store for directions to a shelf or a product recommendation. Eateries could use the technology to let customers order and pay. This could reduce business operating costs and lower price, but in the same token, it may also reduce jobs.

As consumers, we need to be aware of the personal data we’re committing to businesses (and their marketing departments) when providing all this clearly quantifiable data.

As technology and industry continues to develop, we’re likely to find further rewards to an increasingly mobile internet as well as face new challenges. Either way, there’s no fighting - that change in the marketplace is already here.

Does new mobile internet technology in the marketplace worry you, or are you happy to use things like barcode scanner apps and Facebook check-ins to get a better deal?

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