Survey: Smartphones by bargain-hunting consumers changing customer-retailer relationship

New York City -- A survey released Wednesday by Accenture revealed that the growing use of smartphone technology and the economic downturn have encouraged cost-conscious consumers to explore alternative retail channels, such as online and smartphones, to secure bargains.

According to the survey of 1,000 consumers in 10 countries, 79% of smartphone users would find it useful to download money-off coupons to their phones, and 73% would like to receive instant money-off coupons as they pass by an item in a store. Conversely, just 48% of smartphone users have downloaded a coupon from their PCs.

Accenture’s findings suggest that couponing could become a more important part of the retail experience as smartphone technology becomes more widespread, and if retailers are adept at using customer analytics to target messages and deals to consumers. Notably, 48% of conventional cell phone users plan to buy a smartphone in the next 12 months.

The results of the survey also indicate that smartphone technology is changing the relationship between customers and retailers. Many smartphone users said that they prefer using their mobile device rather than interacting with a store employee for simple tasks. According to the survey, 73% favor using their smartphone to handle simple tasks compared with 15% who favor interaction with an employee. Similarly, 71% favor using their smartphone to identify a store with a desired item in stock, while 17% would prefer to get that information by speaking to an employee.

“Smartphones will permanently change the relationship between the store and the shopper,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Today’s tech-savvy consumer wants a seamless shopping experience across store, mobile or online at a time that suits them.”

Hoffman added that, ultimately, this trend will lead to a new definition of the store. “Purpose, place and size are all up for debate. Already we are seeing some shoppers treating stores more like a showroom to test products and then making their purchase online,” she said.

Privacy, however, remains a key concern of consumers, and could have a negative impact on the growing use of smartphones for shopping. More than half of respondents (54%) worry that using smartphones will erode their privacy. Among the other smartphone shopping concerns voiced, 59% fear losing the personal touch from store employees, and 39% believe that products would get more expensive.

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