Mobile Phones and the New ResponsibilityTheodore Iacobuzio |
David Brooks’s October 18th New York Times column (subscription may be required) underlines something Global Insights has been saying for some time now: the shift to thrift is real, quantifiable, and irrevocable. Consumer behavior evinces today stark contrasts to pre-crisis norms all over the place.
At first your agent was going to go all snarky on Brooks for drawing a comparison between The Second Great Awakening ,—which began in the U.S. in the 1820s, and without which it is difficult to imagine, for example, abolitionism—and a desire on the part of consumers of every demographic to draw in their financial horns.
When you consider that in a country as informed as the U.S. is by Calvinism, where the pocketbook and the soul are near neighbors, Brooks’s characterization of the shift to thrift by way of analogy as The Great Restoration (of responsibility, in part) is a brilliant insight. He closes his column by saying that this restoration is happening “quietly and away from the cameras.” Specifically the cameras trained on Zuccotti Park.
Cameras or not, you can still watch it happening if you know where to look. Interestingly, it’s happening in ecommerce. Third quarter 2010 shopping online for diverse brands and from different retailers increased 10 to 12 percent over the same period in 2008, according to research from comScore. The same report showed visits to comparison shopping sites up 30 percent over the same period.
Maybe the most arresting nugget in the comScore data is the one with 70 percent of surveyed consumers reporting they will pay no more than $5 for shipping. Take that!
But the same kind of nearly frictionless comparison shopping the Internet allows could be coming, with only slight modifications, to the physical word. Thanks to changes in form factor, the familiar plastic card could be replaced by interactive mobile devices accessing a variety of networks, including the good old Internet.
But it isn’t just price—in retail or in retail financial services. Mobile allows retailers who can give consumers the best experience (including virtuous experiences) for the same, or similar prices an edge over their competitors. Soon flexibility in price and experience will kick up a notch, online and in the store. Praise the Lord and pass the application kind of thing.