What Do Smartphone Shoppers Really Want?

Exactly what is it that smartphone shoppers want? Bluntly put: saving time and money.
If you're a supermarket shopper, these are the values you hold most dear, besides having a safe, clean store and an acceptable variety of nutritional foods. After all, you spend serious time at the supermarket – one or more trips per week – and it's not necessarily the most exciting part of your day. And, of course, you spend a considerable amount of money to keep yourself or your family fed.
CPG retailers and brands are continuously trying to curry favor with shoppers by offering ways to save time and money. Quickest checkout ever! Do it yourself with self-checkout! Buy-one-get-one free! Bargain aisle sales! But what if there was a technology – one that shoppers didn't even have to pay for – that could save on their core values? Wait a minute – isn't there such a technology? That's right: it's called the smartphone.
According to Nielsen, almost two-thirds (64.7%) of U.S. cell phone users now own a smartphone, which is typically always with them and always on. And there are more than 1,000 shopping apps for the iPhone alone. Problem solved, right? Well, not quite.
But are these mobile apps really giving supermarket shoppers what they want? Put another way, what are the features and functions in an app that can actually help shoppers – and make them want to use a smartphone time and time again during their routine supermarket?
Let Catalina answer these questions for you. In a partnership with market research firm InsightsNow, we conducted a nationwide survey of 1,000 smartphone owners who are the primary shoppers within their households and have either used their phones while shopping in the past three months or are interested in using them in the future. The study included in-depth qualitative interactions with a small group of mobile savvy shoppers from across the country. Catalina published the findings in an April report called "Getting Smart About Today's Mobile Savvy Shoppers: What Really Matters in a Mobile Shopping Application."
The findings? First of all, smartphones are indeed catching on as instruments of grocery shopping. Two-thirds of the study's smartphone owners have already used their smartphone for grocery shopping, including 45% who use them frequently. Only 22% are not interested in using their phones while shopping. This underscores that retailers and CPG brands that want to garner the loyalty of their customers' better look at the smartphone as one of the vehicles for accomplishing that.
The findings also showed that, as currently constituted, grocery apps are too individualized in their functionality; very few integrate all of the desired features in one place. Or as one shopper put it, "There currently is not one [app] that I really love."
So what would that ideal app contain?
The survey asked shoppers about 18 different grocery app features and discovered that the four most desired do relate to saving money: Digital coupons, real-time coupons (delivered during the shopping trip), reminders of what's on a shopping list, and the ability to track spending. In fact, five of the seven most desired features are associated with coupons, budgeting and tracking spending and savings.
Discounts are top of the must have list for smartphone shoppers. Almost one-third of respondents have used 31 or more mobile coupons in the past six months, and 38% are extremely likely to use digital coupons in the future.
The real power of the smartphone is not only to save shoppers money, but, you guessed it, time. For example, giving shoppers access to digital coupons through smartphone apps allows them to further maximize precious seconds on the clock and their wallets. But to further and truly have impact, the coupons delivered by smartphones cannot be any random coupons – they need to be relevant, personalized coupons delivered to the right shopper. Mobile apps are able to deliver relevant offers and content in retail time, in aisle.
And there's something else that smartphones offer that is otherwise hard to come by in the store: knowledge. That is, knowledge of products, prices, nutrition and more. All-in-one apps put control back with the customer. Shoppers leverage this knowledge to make faster, more efficient and smarter trips. This is every shopper's dream.
How else can smartphone apps do that? Well, they can automate activities like shopping list creation, normally a pen-and-paper affair. Apps remember what you bought in the past and present that information to you, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. If you want to track your spending as you shop, an app lets you scan and bag, automatically tallying your expenditures. If you want to track your loyalty or gas points, the smartphone app does that, too. This is value-added intelligence that makes your shopping trip that much easier, and even more interesting. And shoppers confirmed they value all of these functions.
While all smartphone shoppers share overlapping interests, the research was able to group them into three categories: those primarily interested in accessing relevant coupons and savings (37%); those who want to save money but are also keen on improve shopping efficiency (26%) and would be the most likely early adopters of pay-with-phone features; and those – at 38%, the largest category – who prefer a broad range of features (a Swiss army knife) that also encompass everything from automated list-making with reminders to tracking spending and accessing nutrition, recipe and health information.
The ideal app would include enough features to satisfy all of these shopper groups.
So we got it: we know what shoppers want. But quickly, what don't they want? It's this: anything that complicates or extends their shopping trip (shocking!). For example, few shoppers have any need for social networking during an actual shopping trip, and not many see much use for a meal planner or receipt images.
So if you're a retailer who wants to gain the loyal attention of the growing legions of mobile savvy shoppers, come up with a single app that helps them save time and money, and always keep it simple.
Courtney Jane Acuff leads user experience and insights for Catalina, the personalized digital media company.
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