Opportunities await retailers for in-aisle mobile phones

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 29th July 2011

A report released this month in the US has found that retailers are not adequately responding to the rising trend of consumers using mobile phone technology while shopping in supermarkets and other retail stores.

The report, title “the Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation”, was released by White Horse Digital Futures Group, which specialises in consumer technologies.

The report found that more consumers are able to use their smartphones to scan, research and compare the prices of products, and that this is changing consumer behaviour. However, retailers are slow to respond adequately to this consumer capability.

The report envisaged that the evolution of the use of smartphones in retail will develop from smartphone technology being used as a device external to the store to eventually becoming part and parcel of the in-aisle retail experience.

The report found that many smartphone owners use their devices for a range of shopping functions, including searching for a lower price for a product, looking up product reviews and store information, scanning the electronic tag of a product to view product information, or downloading coupons and discount offers delivered to their smartphone. The report stated that retailers should be catering to this trend in retail behaviour.

Some US chain stores and manufacturers have started to provide QR codes – a form of electronic tagging – on their products. QR codes allow consumers to scan codes with their smartphone camera and get detailed product information and reviews. However, the report noted that there is a lack of information and guidance in stores about how QR codes work, and where to download the applications used to scan the QR code.

In particular for the food industry, there is scope for smartphone technology and QR code scanning to be used on food products. The ability of QR codes to store more information than traditional barcodes is currently being examined as a means of enhancing food traceability and consumer access to food nutritional and allergen information by governments, industries and academia alike.

Although not mentioned in this particular report, Australian Food News has noted that there are reportedly a number of related technologies being developed to allow retailers to use the QR code system as a means of tracking or interacting with their customers within the store or mapping their shopping patterns.