OIA Rendezvous Panel to Examine How Consumer Technology is Changing Retailing - Outdoor Industry Association

OIA Rendezvous Panel to Examine How Consumer Technology is Changing Retailing

In case you didn’t notice, the United States reached a tipping point this year when multiple research organizations declared that the proportion of Americans owning smartphones surpassed 50 percent. This is significantly impacting consumer behavior, and is affecting retail on many levels. Are you adapting to the new retail reality?

Five years after Apple introduced the iPhone — the first consumer smartphone, more than 100 million smartphones are in use in the United States. There are approximately 500,000 iPhone apps and 400,000 Android apps, and Microsoft is getting into the mobile app space as well. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of retail apps, including dozens that enable consumers to scan bar codes in stores to compare retail prices online.

“Everybody is walking into stores with smartphones, and smartphone penetration is growing exponentially,” said Scott Barrett, vice president of e-commerce at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS). “All the control in retail right now is literally in the palm of the customer’s hand. This has been the steepest learning curve I’ve ever faced in 25 years of being in business and marketing.”

With this in mind, Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) has recruited Barrett to lead a panel discussion on “How Consumer Technology is Changing Retail” at the upcoming OIA Rendezvous executive conference, which takes place in Boston Oct. 3-5. The discussion is just one of several events planned for the conference’s retail track.

Smartphones are merely the most salient example of how technology is changing retail. Two months ago, Google rocked the retailing world when it announced it would begin phasing out free product listings this fall. (See related WebNews story.) The change will send already spiraling digital advertising costs even higher, further narrowing slim online retailing margins. The iPad, meanwhile, has increased the pace at which consumers purchase goods from mobile devices. EMS began equipping its store “guides” with iPad computers early this year in a bid to enhance the customer experience. In late May, Austin Canoe and Kayak launched a version of its e-commerce site optimized for Apple’s iPad after seeing iPad traffic to its e-commerce site balloon 2,000 percent in a year. The iPad now accounts for 40 percent of all mobile traffic to ack.com.

This technology shift could accelerate demand for mobile checkout at brick-and-mortar stores. Mobile’s share of U.S. retail revenue more than doubled to 4.6 percent in the year that ended April 30, with the iPad driving nearly all shopping, browsing and purchasing in the channel, according to the research firm RichRelevance. A Motorola survey published in April found that 42 percent of retailers will pilot mobile POS systems in the next 36 months.

By the time OIA Rendezvous rolls around in two short months, Barrett expects EMS will have deployed iPads in all of its more than 60 brick-and-mortar stores, from Maine to Virginia.

“We owe it to ourselves to share the experiences we are having adapting and running with the technological changes going on,” Barrett said. “We need to talk about what we believe we have done right and what we’ve done wrong.”

Rendezvous is the premier education conference for outdoor industry executives. In addition to a retail track, Rendezvous 2012 also features tracks on executive leadership, marketing and manufacturing — as well as insightful keynote sessions, an evening “Retail Trail” scavenger hunt to Boston-area retail stores, an afternoon of service projects to give back to the local community, and valuable networking time.

Registration for OIA Rendezvous 2012 is limited and ends September 4. Don’t delay!