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

BY CSA STAFF

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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FINANCE

American Express report: Luxury spending tightens during holidays

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — A report released Wednesday by American Express Business Insights found that the more recent increases in luxury retail spending is tightening in the waning days of 2010.

According to third quarter 2010 Spend Sights Report, which analyzes year-over-year trends across the furniture and home furnishings, apparel and accessories, jewelry and department store luxury categories, after strong increases on luxury apparel and accessories in March and April — 19% and 21% respectively — spending in the remainder of 2010 increased by much smaller amounts showing that consumers and businesses alike tightened their purse strings to preparation for the holiday season.

Overall, consumer spending increased 12% on furniture and home furnishings as many opted to upgrade their current homes rather than risk the unstable housing market. Small and large businesses, however, continued to hold back and decreased spending in this category by 2% and 7% respectively.

Department store spending showed a healthy increase across all segments. Consumers led with a 9% increase while small businesses were close behind with an 8% increase. Large businesses followed with a 7% increase.

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J.C. Penney signs on for Swagg mobile application

BY CSA STAFF

Atlanta — Mobile-commerce enabler Outlier, a subsidiary of Qualcom, announced J.C. Penney as its latest retail partner for Outlier’s recently released mobile application, Swagg. The application, providing shoppers with mobile access to retail special offers and customer loyalty programs.

"Customers are increasingly turning to mobile experiences to assist with their shopping needs," said Tom Nealon, group executive VP of J.C. Penney. "Using the Swagg application, members of our JCP Rewards customer loyalty program will be able to view their account directly from their mobile device, allowing them to conveniently check their points and access their $10 monthly reward coupon on the go."

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