It seems that online shopping and the in-store experience are coming together this holiday season, courtesy of the growth of the smartphone market.
Online holiday purchases have steadily increased each year for the past several Christmas seasons. This year, it is a little different because many consumers now carry the internet with them in the form of a smartphone. This means that they don't need to check prices online and then run to the store, or vice versa. They can stand in front of a product in the mall and immediately check the pricing against online options. A recent survey by IDC indicates that over 1/3 of smartphone owners intend to use that strategy this year.
Recognizing the trends, retailers aren't sitting on their hands. Many retailers have developed custom smartphone apps to stay in front of connected consumers. This not only gives them a seat at the comparative shopping table, but it also allows them to keep selling after they lock the doors at night. Many consumers are shopping at all hours of the day or night, increasingly using their smartphone. If they are looking at an app from Target or another retailer, there is still a possibility that they will go make the purchase at that store, or buy from the store's website. And target is also making its website available through shopping kiosks placed throughout the store.
Amazon is working hard to lead the pack in the integration of in-store and mobile online shopping. Consumers can scan an item's bar code in the store, take a picture of it or even say the name of the product into their phones, and Amazon's app will scan the Amazon inventory for pricing and availability. If it looks good, consumers can buy it from Amazon on the spot. (Of course, read further down in that article, and it points out that RedLaser already offers smartphone technology which will scan bar codes and compare prices on many different websites, not just Amazon.)
For a good discussion of the whole phenomenon, check out this article in the San Jose Mercury News.
So what does all of this have to do with the entertainment business? As tablets will be one of the hot sellers this holiday season, and smartphone sales continue to grow, this trend towards mobile media and commerce will expand greatly. There will be a huge demand for mobile content, as well as genuine opportunities for mobile brand integration strategies. And the growth of mobile commerce means that many more advertisers willing to sponsor mobile content.
2011 will be the year that mobile devices break out as a separate category of entertainment, and a medium where creators will soon be able to make some serious money. If you're developing content, think online and mobile first. You can get it "on the air" quickly and build an audience while you chase a television deal. Or just keep it in the digital realm and take advantage of the large move towards mobile commerce.