In Aisles, Consumers Turn to Mobiles for Holiday Shopping

Of the $447 billion in predicted U.S. holiday spending this season, $127 billion of it, or 28 percent, will be touched by some form of mobile commerce or social networking. IDC Retail Insights surveyed more than 1,000 adults to determine such results, finding that an increased number of consumers armed with smartphones are relying upon online product reviews and recommendations while in the aisles of brick-and-mortar retail outlets.

Indeed, IDC suggests that stores best equipped with solid mobile commerce and social networking strategies provide a “decided advantage” over retailers lacking in such areas. Although I’m a sample size of one, I can vouch for IDC’s thought process. When I’m out shopping for a particular product, I routinely check both online pricing and product reviews, both within and outside of my social networking circles. It’s common for me to browse bookshelves for hours at the local Barnes and Noble (s bks), for example, and walk away without a single purchase. But when arriving home, I have several new book titles on my Kindle (s amzn) for iPad (s aapl) app due to better pricing or book ratings from my friends in the Goodreads community.

Aside from social networking, barcode scanning software hooked into pricing data and product review sites, both connected smartphones and in-store Wi-Fi are driving these new shopping behaviors. As one of the nations with the fastest smartphone adoption rates (50 percent will have a smartphone by this time next year), it makes sense that U.S. consumers are seeking product advice on their handhelds. But these folks aren’t simply seeking information: IDC reports that more than one-third of those surveyed are “ready to use their mobile devices in ways that transform how they shop everywhere and, in particular, how they shop in retail stores.”

The last phrase is key because the future of mobile shopping won’t consist of looking for the best price or product. Consumers will be looking for coupons when “checking in” to a retail store, so sellers not on the location-based service bandwagon need to hop on now. And I’m surely not the only person tired of carrying a wallet full of cash, plastic, reward cards and more; as a result, mobile payment processing, digital wallets and wireless transactions with near-field communications (NFC) technology are all the next logical step.

A growing number of consumers appear ready and willing to consider such solutions, placing a greater importance on the need for payment and technology standards. The question remains: will they come from the carriers, handset platform makers such as Apple and Google (s goog), or from the traditional credit card companies? Digital commerce is only one part of retail’s future and the “how” consumers will use mobiles to shop. Given our tech-savvy audience, I’m curious to see what our readers think about how we’ll be leveraging mobile, social and other connected aspects for future purchases.

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