I recently attended two conferences about mobile and wanted to share what I learned.
“Shopping on Mobile Phones is Going Mainstream” was a panel discussion sponsored by High Start Group. This took place at the Vilna Shul in Boston on March 2nd. Two writeups about the event can be found here and here. More than 50 people were present for the discussion. You can see comments about the event on Twitter by searching for #vilnashulmobile.
The annual Mobile Madness event sponsored by Xconomy took place on March 10th in Cambridge. About 150 people were present to hear panels speak on various aspects of mobile including: the future of 4G, how your phone is making you smarter, mobile commerce, and mobile in the enterprise. You can see comments about the event on Twitter by searching for #mobmad.
Here are the important things I took away from the events:
- Mobile will change the in-store shopping experience.
- Mobile can save time while shopping by eliminating lines. For example, with Starbucks’ app, instead of waiting on line to order and pay, you can place the order and pay for it on your phone and then they call you when it is ready. In supermarkets, you can scan goods as you pick them up so that you don’t have to wait on line to get the items scanned again.
- Price comparison in stores is being adopted by smartphone users. 50% of smartphone owners who use price comparison end up purchasing at another store or online. 33% ask the cashier to match the price. This can hurt small stores as they cannot always compete on price. They will have to offer services or other reasons to justify the higher cost.
- The self servicing nature of mobile can allow stores to remove unskilled labor and create opportunity for adding value by providing skilled labor. Apple stores are an example of having a more skilled labor force to help customers.
- Mobile integration into retail stores is difficult as companies (especially small ones) don’t want to make any financial commitment for unproven technologies. They are generally willing to experiment with technology as long as it is on someone else’s dime.
- Use of mobile for self servicing offers opportunity for directed advertising when it can be most effective. An example is when someone scans a QR code for a printer in store to display a coupon for ink or paper. Providing coupons after checkout, such as is being done at supermarkets, is not effective because it is too late at that point.
- iTunes is most likely to be a young person’s first financial relationship with a company. Whether the account is tied to a credit card or populated by gift cards, it may be the first time a young person is making purchases in their own names without cash. This could strengthen Apple’s position if/when they promote the phone as a eWallet.
- Wireless bandwidth remains a limited commodity and will be for some time. Developers should be careful how they use it to provide the best mobile experience. Despite the marketing hype of 4G, such as people streaming HD movies on their phones, it will be a long time before networks can be built out enough to cover the rising demand of mobile.