IBM official: Retailers, manufacturers drop the ball on mobile commerce

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Retailers and manufacturers are not ready to take advantage of opportunities offered by mobile technology, noted Paul Brody, global electronics leader for global business services at IBM (NYSE: IBM).

"I don't think that either of them is well positioned to have a leadership position in the pocket of the consumer," Brody told a session at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.

Brody cited the example of Square, which provides technology so that smartphones can be used to make payments at stores. According to Square's website, its Wallet app enables "hands-free checkout at your favorite businesses," and allows you to "stash your phone and simply say your name to pay."

Brody said this app is the "prototype for the always-on, zero user-interface experience" for mobile commerce.

"Now imagine this technology for comparison shopping," he added. "You are in the grocery store and they send you a message saying, 'Why don't you grab that roll of toilet paper because it is cheaper than anywhere else.' I'm not sure that the retailers and typical OEMs have the technology and experience to focus on mobile vehicles to do that."

Donald Chestnut, chief experience officer at interactive marketing firm SapientNitro, told the CES audience that customers' online behavior in stores is much different than their behavior while shopping online at home.

"We have a big box retailer client that is launching a number of digital tools for the in-store experience. They gave their associates iPads to provide information to the customers. The question arose: What if the customer asks an associate, 'Where else can I get this and can I get it cheaper somewhere else'? The CEO responded, 'Then you look it up for them'," Chestnut said.

According to a recent survey by GfK Roper and SapientNitro, a unit of Sapient, 70 percent of Americans want retailers to do more to enhance their in-store shopping experience. A majority of respondents who own smartphones said they would like to view store circulars and flyers on their phones, download in-store navigation apps, and be able to make mobile payments or check out by scanning their mobile phones.

For more:
- check out the Square Wallet website
- see the SapientNitro survey release

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