10 Shopping Tips for the Mobile Consumer

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Learn how to be a tech-savvy and cost-conscious shopper. With your mobile phone, you can price-compare from anywhere, scan QR codes, track your gift list, and more.

The holiday shopping season is approaching, and more consumers are looking to their tablets and smartphones to compare prices and make purchases. Between 2010 and 2011, online traffic and sales from mobile devices doubled during the holiday season, according to IBM. This year, a Google survey indicates 4 out of 5 tablet owners will use their devices for holiday shopping.

In response to this surge, retailers are making it easier to browse and make purchases on mobile devices. In fact, Internet Retailer reports stores will increase spending on mobile shopping initiatives by 276 percent over last year. But with this convenience comes the potential for overspending. Make sure your holiday budget stays in check using these mobile shopping tips.

1. Arm your smartphone with apps

Shopping apps are a great way to save money online and in-store. According to a recent survey conducted by PriceGrabber, 82 percent of nearly 2,500 surveyed online shoppers will use shopping apps to save on holiday gifts. There are several of these top-rated apps available for free, like the Coupon Sherpa mobile app that’s currently listed among the top 10 free lifestyle apps in iTunes.

2. Price-compare from anywhere

Whether you’re browsing aisles for a desired product or checking prices during your lunch hour, apps like Decide and RedLaser help you find the best deal. Decide will tell you the optimal time to buy an item based on historical pricing data and consumer reviews. RedLaser allows you to scan an item’s barcode and compare prices at nearby stores as well as online.

3. Track your gift list

Making a gift list keeps you organized and helps you stick to your budget. Putting that list on your phone or tablet ensures it’s always with you. Holiday gift list apps not only keep your list at your fingertips, they also track your spending so you know your remaining budget after each purchase. Consult this PC Magazine article for the top eight gift list apps for your device.

4. Scan QR codes

Some retailers use QR codes to offer additional information and discounts on a product, but stores like Target are using them to give consumers additional purchasing options – and incentives. The popular retailer recently applied QR codes to the top 20 toys, allowing consumers to scan the code and order online if the toy is out of stock in-store. Ultimately, it’s always good to scan these codes when they’re available.

5. Start texting stores

Retailers know that shoppers are tapped into their cell phones 24/7 and have begun targeting this mobile audience with text messages. Stores like Target, Payless, Sears, and Best Buy offer coupons via text. Some require you to message a specific number while others make it a little simpler with text alerts featuring a coupon or special promotion sent directly to your device. Visit the retailer’s website to register your mobile number and take advantage of the instant deal alerts.

6. Checking in counts

Word-of-mouth promotion is one of the most powerful marketing tools for any brand. These days, however, word of mouth isn’t as much spoken as it is shared on popular social media sites. Take a moment to check in to a store or restaurant on Foursquare or Facebook and you may uncover discounts and freebies.

7. Stay organized

While your mobile phone can help you save money and locate deals, it can also help you manage your money and your wallet. The CardStar App, for instance, keeps all your store loyalty and reward cards in one place for quick and easy access – and less wallet or keychain clutter. More retailers also offer to email or text message receipts so you don’t have to keep a stack of crinkly paper tucked in your pocket or purse.

8. Digital gift cards

Mobile gift cards are all the rage these days as mobile shopping continues to become more mainstream. TIME reported 61 percent of retailers intend to offer digital gift cards over the next three years. The best way to save money on these popular items is to purchase them at a discount from sites like GiftCardGranny.com. The site offers mobile gift cards from popular retailers for up to 15 percent off the card’s value.

9. Beware of too much convenience

Having your favorite stores at your fingertips during the holiday season makes impulse buys while browsing at the DMV or doctor’s office even easier. Make sure you’re using your mobile device for planned purchases and avoid visiting retail sites during moments of ennui. Doing so will save you a lot of money since browsing while bored is dangerous for your bank account. One way to avoid this is to delete any billing and credit card information from the store’s mobile site. The easier it is to complete a purchase, the more likely you will do so on impulse.

10. Be secure

With an increase in mobile shopping comes an increase in the potential for security issues. Some apps are more reputable than others, so check reviews before allowing an app to access your personal information. Avoid making any purchases on public Wi-Fi networks, and consider downloading mobile security apps to protect your device from hackers. Check out this PC Magazine article for more safety tips and recommendations.

Stacy Johnson

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