Shoppers Choose Apps over People

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More shoppers are using their mobile devices to research prices and products before making a purchase, Google reported on June 12. In fact, many people prefer consulting their smartphones and tablets rather than a person. What companies are taking advantage of this shopping trend?

Gap leads the way

Gap (NYSE: GPS) allows its customers to shop for products from Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and other stores under its umbrella of retailers from a mobile device. The company takes offering prices, pictures of products, descriptions and locations very seriously, according to the firm's mobile marketing strategy. Gap is able to connect with its customers and cut costs at its stores. Gap also stands to benefit from reduced costs related to staffing stores if people prefer to use their gadgets. The Gap app also keeps people connected to the store wherever they go, and this can help the brand seep into the consciousness of the customers. 

Gap noted in its 2011 investors meeting that focusing on mobility better connects people to the company. Now, more than ever, companies such as Gap are able to not only market to their customers, but also listen to those customers' feedback. At the same investors meeting, the firm noted an increased conversion rate of those shopping with the app. The company has a mobile commerce platform that makes it easy for people browsing to make a purchase. This type of ingenuity can really put Gap ahead of the competition.

Check out Safeway's mobility

Safeway's (NYSE: SWY) app aims to "make shopping fun again!" The Safeway app provides shoppers with a convenient way to access coupons and discover the best deals of the week. The app also provides users with the ability to make a shopping list on the phone. Cyborgs, I mean shoppers, can create, edit and update their shopping lists in real time, wherever they are. The app also boasts a Safeway weekly ad and coupons that are specifically designed just for smartphone users. Making shopping easier could be Safeway's ticket to securing market share.

According to Zacksthe digital coupons offered on the app have increased sales, though the company hasn't said by how much. The more people integrate with apps, the more digital coupons will fuel profits. Forbes said adding the Just for You customer loyalty program, which includes the coupons, marked a fourth-quarter 2012 turnaround for the firm and could help stabilize consistent profits in the years ahead.

CIBC offers mobile payments app

While the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (NYSE: CM) already had a mobile payment app, it has recently added it to Android smartphones. This adds a major demographic that can now pay for daily purchases with the app, and could attract many people to the company for that reason. Clients can use the app to facilitate transactions with their credit cards, which is a process accepted by thousands of retailers for any purchase less than $50. With the app, people can hold their smartphone to a payment terminal to complete the transaction.

CIBC has recently concentrated on becoming mobile-friendly. Since 2009, net interest income after loan loss prevention has shot up by 65%. Much of that is likely attributed to the overall economic recovery, but being tech savvy hasn't hurt either. The more user-friendly banks are, the broader customer base they will attract, and this will lead to further profits at the bank.

Just how important is the move to smartphones?

Google said during its June 12 conference that more businesses will have to initiate integration with mobile devices if they want to keep their client base. Apps are getting to the point where they will show exactly which stores have the sizes and colors of what customers want to purchase, for example. That gives a lot of power to consumers to choose the company that will serve them best.

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