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The Mobile Advisor

Consumers turn to smartphones for peer opinions and content
  • February 13 2012

If a mobile device is the modern shopper’s constant companion, what advice does it offer? Can it determine if a person looks good in an outfit? Can it tell a browser whether an impulse-buy is a good value? Can it help pull the trigger on that big-screen TV purchase?

Likely all of the above, as consumers are increasingly turning to their smartphones to research products, read customer reviews and make actual purchases. For example, recent analysis by Bazaarvoice, whose software helps brands host and analyze user-generated content (UGC) such as product reviews, consumer Q&A and shared experiences, found mobile users were far more active during the 2011 holiday season than they had been the year before. According to its January 2012 Conversation Index, the percentage of users accessing user-generated content more than doubled on Black Friday 2011 to 12 percent of total visitors, compared to 5 percent in 2010. Moreover, mobile users have been generating content at a higher rate than ever before, underscoring the need for brands to optimize content submission for smartphones and tablets.

The reasons for this are clear: Consumers trust the online opinions of fellow consumers, often more than they do information from any other source. And the more digital the consumer, the more these online opinions matter, and the more likely they may be to access that information on a mobile device. In a January 2012 study from Bazaarvoice, The Center for Generational Kinetics and Kelton, 84 percent of Millennials indicated that UGC on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy. For Boomers, that figure was 70 percent. In fact, there are some purchase decisions—big and small—that Millennials won’t make without UGC.

“That is our natural purchasing pathway,” notes Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer of The Center for Generational Kinetics, in a discussion of the findings and why Millennials trust people over brands. Noting his own propensity to check reviews on his mobile device, he adds, “Whoever gets in that pathway is going to get us.”

Consider some examples of how mobile fuels in-store shopping.

Benefit Cosmetics recognizes that Millennials expect information and interactions on demand, anywhere and anytime—whether on Facebook, its corporate website or in-store. Benefit created an in-store only iPad app that lets consumers learn more about in-store offerings, search products and see what’s new. Shoppers can also browse and view consumer ratings and reviews to see what other shoppers think of the products, plus the app lets shoppers access tutorials, videos and product comparisons.

The cosmetics chain Sephora, which has had a mobile presence since 2009, allows shoppers to browse product reviews when considering an in-store purchase. Consumers can see reviews by category, by keyword or even by SKU. “We want to deliver the best client experience to our shoppers, wherever they shop,” says Julie Bornstein, SVP of Sephora Direct. “[Our mobile app] allows us to amplify the voice of our clients by making reviews easily accessible through iPhone, Blackberry and other mobile devices.”

Rubbermaid, meanwhile, uses in-store signage to encourage customers to read reviews via their mobile devices. By sending a text or scanning a code, customers are taken to a Rubbermaid mobile site where they can read product reviews, view photos and see how-to videos. “We’re starting to get the metrics, and it looks like people are actually choosing customer reviews and ratings over the videos and photos, which we kind of expected,” says Jim Deitzel, senior emarketing manager for Newell Rubbermaid.