May 4, 2011, 3:58 PM

Consumers with smartphones have high expectations of retailers, study finds

These shoppers are heralding “a new era of commerce,” Demandware says.

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46% of smartphone-wielding consumers like to research products on their phones and then purchase  in a store, a new report finds. What’s more, 83% of these consumers who used their phones to access product information and compare prices while in a store found the experience to be valuable or extremely valuable, says “Understanding the Power of the ‘Smart Consumer,’” a report from e-commerce and m-commerce technology provider Demandware Inc.

Demandware and Forrester Research Inc. in February surveyed 454 consumers across North America, U.K., France and Germany. The consumers access the web several times a day, and 90% own a smartphone. Demandware dubs the 90% “smart consumers,” a group of web and mobile web shoppers who are pioneering new shopping experiences, such as mobile commerce, and who are increasingly dictating the way retailers must engage with shoppers across all channels and devices, the vendor says.

The report says “smart consumers” have heightened expectations of retailers and the overall brand experience. When presented with a positive online shopping experience, they are more likely to reward retailers with brand loyalty, with 67% indicating willingness to share a positive experience with friends and family. Conversely, they can be very unforgiving, the report finds, with 72% feeling compelled to share a negative online experience with friends and family, and 70% turning to a retailer’s competitor as a result.

Web-oriented consumers use a variety of touch-points and channels to inform their purchasing decisions, placing increased pressure on retailers to provide exceptional experiences across all touch points, including smartphones and tablet computers, Demandware says. As consumers increasingly share opinions and attitudes across web and mobile-enabled social networks, a single poor experience can have far-reaching consequences for retailers, who risk disappointing these consumers and losing them for good, it adds.

By enabling increased access to product information, smartphones increase the expectations that consumers have of retailers, the report says. The Nielsen Co. projects by the end of this year half of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones. Retailers not prepared to deliver exceptional brand experiences and ubiquitous access to product information run the risk of alienating smartphone-toting consumers and losing market share, Demandware contends.

“The ‘smart consumer’ represents the new consumer,” says Jamus Driscoll, vice president of marketing at Demandware. “Empowered by greater access to the web, the new consumer is becoming increasingly agile and sophisticated, and will continue to raise the bar for the way commerce is conducted. Retailers must prepare their businesses now to adapt to this new era of commerce.”

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