Consumers use mobile web to bag bargains

Retailers need to be ready to face a new breed of savvy consumers, according to new research into the way people use broadband enabled mobile devices to access the web while they are out and about.

The research, which was carried out among early adopters of the internet capable Broadband Anywhere BT ToGo smartphone, points to a growing trend for shoppers to compare prices and look up product reviews and recommendations by other consumers when they are on the move.

It shows that while customers have been out and about in the last three months: 45% have browsed for goods or services; 33% have price checked or searched for a review of a product or service; 33% have found that their devices have helped them to make well-informed buying decisions; and 20% have made an actual purchase online in the past three months.

While shoppers may still like to look and touch physical goods before committing to particular buying decisions, such as big electronics purchases or more personal items like clothes, the research shows that once they have settled on a model or item, increasing numbers are now turning to online to get the cheapest deal.

BT Futurologist Ian Neild stated: “Broadband on the move is bringing about a change in consumer behaviour. Consumers can now do the things they would normally do at home when they are out and about. The ease with which they can go online to sites like Pricerunner or TripAdvisor to inform their buying decisions puts added pressure on high-street retailers to offer the best prices and the product ranges that people want.

“The days of the internet being something for the home are over,2 he continued. “For a growing number of savvy shoppers, the online and instore worlds have now merged. Retailers should take advantage of the fact that customers may now have access to the Internet whilst instore and, for example, use their WiFi connections to deliver expert advice via a store intranet channel.”

Kenneth Bundy, a BT ToGo customer who took part in the study, said: “It’s like having a consumer panel in your pocket. When I’m on the high street I can now find out what other shoppers think before making a purchase. Price checking on larger items also makes me feel I’m more likely to pay a fair price.”

The research also provides a warning to retailers who have not yet developed mobile versions of their websites. When asked to name the most important feature of sites viewed from a mobile device: 20% said they had to be specifically designed for mobile use; 39% said they should be easy to navigate; and 25% said they needed to be quick to load.

Neild added: “People want fit for purpose content that offers as sophisticated an experience on their handheld device as they’re used to on their PC. At the current rate, many businesses are in danger of being caught on the hop. These findings suggest that consumers’ expectations may be outstripping the reality being offered by businesses.”

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