Monday, January 11, 2010

Survey:Shoppers Increasingly Go High-Tech For Shopping Needs

Consumers' growing access to technology is leading retailers to become more creative in how they personalize promotions and sales as the industry continues to adopt to new technologies, according to findings by International Business Machines Corp (IBM).

Shoppers are increasingly using technologies to interact both with retailers and with other consumers, a trend even more pronounced in emerging markets. Consumers in India, China and Brazil are almost twice as willing to use multiple technologies for shopping, said IBM, as new technologies often grow faster in emerging countries.

The shift in high-tech shopping comes after research firm IDC said last month the number of mobile Internet users is expected to more than double over the next four years to more than one billion.

An IBM study, which surveyed more than 32,000 consumers globally, found 79% want to use Web sites to access and print coupons. Nearly as many want to use their mobile devices to find where stores are located, and 66% want to see what goods are in stock before going to a store.

But giving consumers real-time information about inventory can be challenging, especially when inventory is tight, according to Jill Puleri, an IBM retail executive. Puleri said IBM is looking to provide software that can instantly show consumers what is available in stores.

But she warned that if that information wasn't accurate, it could hurt a retailer's relationship with the consumer. The survey found 43% said that if an item wasn't available at a store, they would go elsewhere to find it.

The survey's results come after shopping by mobile phone jumped during the 2009 holiday season. For example, e-commerce giant eBay Inc. (EBAY) said last month the number of items bought on its site through mobile devices tripled from a year ago. Some notable purchases included a 23-foot deck boat and a Boston grand piano.

"Retailers cannot afford to sit still as this digital revolution happens," said Puleri. "They must engage plugged-in consumers in new and different ways, on their terms, and with more bi-directional feedback and dialogue."

That need can be met through various smartphone applications, like the coupon application called Yowza, which is available for Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone. Yowza allows consumers to pull up coupons on their phone to be scanned in stores.

Additionally, Puleri said the notion of "co-creating" was a surprising finding of the survey, as consumers reported they were very willing to collaborate with retailers. Puleri said retailers are also looking to reach out through social networking sites--like Facebook and Twitter--but added those interactions were most successful when consumers felt they were given exclusive offers.

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