Picture this – a customer strolls through a retail outlet, uses their mobile phone to scan prices at the store and compares prices with those offered by online merchants. The shopper gets information about the product, whether it is available at another location or online, and checks out the prices.
No need to drive across town, or wait till they are home to check prices on the Internet. The shopper has the power right in his palm to make the buying decision on the spot.
During the 2011 holiday season, more than half of American adult cell phone users relied on their cell phones to help them make purchasing decisions while store shopping. One-third relied on online sources for this information, either for product reviews or to compare prices. The rest called a friend for shopping advice.
Figures show that one in five who used their mobile phone for price matching eventually made their purchase from an online store rather than a physical retail outlet.  Typically, these actions resulted from online product searches:
· 35% purchased the product in the store
· 37% decided not to purchase the product
· 8% purchased the product at another store
· 19% purchased the product online
On the average, people now spend as much or more time per using their phones for Internet browsing, social networking, and shopping online than they do for communications. An estimated 71% of mobile searches happen when people follow up on printed, television, or online advertisements. 
This type of use sets the stage for mobile commerce, or m-commerce – using the cell phone to purchase and make payments. Those who do comparison shopping using their mobile phone often find they can purchase products at lower prices and have more variety to select from. Most use their smartphones to access and receive coupons, special deals and price alerts.
Although mobile commerce is only now beginning to catch on, retail stores are starting to feel its effect. In 2009, only one billion in mobile commerce sales took place. By 2015, this figure is expected to increase to more than $100 billion.
Unfortunately, studies show that 79% of online businesses still don’t have a mobile optimized site. Since websites are displayed differently on mobile phones and must be specially designed for content and usability, retailers have been slow to accept this new trend.
“Mainstream consumer adoption of smart phones, coupled with a consumer focus on getting the best deal, has helped to create a culture where consumers are becoming more and more reliant on their phones for their shopping needs,” says Graham Jones, general manager at PriceGrabber. “With a growing number of consumers utilizing their mobile phones to purchase goods and services, retailers must adapt to this technology quickly or be left behind.”
Retailers are just beginning to learn how people use their smartphones to research and make purchase decisions, and to realize the potential smartphones have in the marketing world!