Smart phones are becoming common companions in the shopping experience, and are changing the nature of our interaction with our customers.  Have you thought of ways to take advantage of this recent phenomenon?

The Orange Tree Imports customer in the photo above is using his iPhone to send his mother a photo of an apron to see if it is the one that she wants.  Other shoppers consult notes and lists on their iPhones, or go online to compare a product’s features — and the prices available elsewhere.

Needless to say, this instantaneous price comparison can be distressing if we are not competitive on the item being checked. But we do offer the advantage of instant gratification, and no shipping costs.  We also gift wrap, and provide all the advantages to our community of shopping locally.  Our advertising and signage stresses the ‘buy local’ message, and some shoppers do use their smart phone and all the information available on sites such as Amazon with the intention of purchasing the item from us.

The researching of product details online is not always a bad thing, because the shopper comes in already armed with some of the information that they would need to ask us for.  Using a QR code next to a product can take them to a landing page that you’ve designed to give details about a product without taking them to a competitor’s site. (See The QR Question, the January 24, 2011 Specialty Shop Retailing blog entry.)

You can also use a QR code posted in the store to encourage customers to join your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter, or check in on Foursquare.  Statistics show that some 50% of all Facebook users now access the information on their smart phone, and there is a natural correlation with those who use the phone as part of their shopping experience.

Paperless coupons work well with the customer who is using a smart phone, as do promotional text messages.  A local coffee shop has had success asking customers for their cell phone numbers in order to send out daily text messages with special offers. Showing the text offer on the smart phone entitles the customer to the discount or other promotion.

My favorite use of a smart phone in the store was the customer I heard calling a friend who was also in the store to say “come see what I found!”.  It certainly beats shouting!

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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