Now with smartphones ascendant in the developed market economies, retailers are beginning to think about how use the multiple capabilities of the handsets to enhance the shopping experience.
The main way they plan to do it is by turning people’s mobile phones into information displays and ordering devices. Can’t find the flour at the grocery store? Grocers will offer phone applications that tell shoppers exactly where to go. Is the department store out of size 8 jeans? Retailers want to make it simple to punch a couple of buttons and have the desired size shipped home.
Some supermarkets intend to offer real-time coupons while people shop. For example, a promotion for milk may be sent to a shopper’s mobile phone the moment her cart rolls into the dairy aisle. Drugstores will offer loyalty programs on cellphones, not on plastic cards. And specialty chains will allow shoppers to breeze through the aisles compiling a wedding registry, just by pointing at merchandise.
Of course, this stuff makes even more sense in the developing world, where there are phones aplenty (even if not all smartphones) and shortcoming in the alternative mechanisms for making shopping more efficient.