What do smartphones and water softeners have in common?

It was a busy Sunday afternoon and I’m at Lowe’s looking for a new water softener for our home. The product was on display, but not a soul wearing the red and blue vest was nearby to answer a few questions. Not to worry, I whipped out my iPhone, scanned the bar code on the box, and got the basic info I needed to get me started.

A few feet away, a couple were looking at the screen of their phone, discovering that whatever store they were looking for didn’t have a location nearby.

No surprise to anyone trying to find knowledgeable help in a retail store these days, smartphones have replaced interaction with store personnel.
“Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices,” a new study from the Google Shopper Council, says 84 percent of mobile shoppers use their phones to help make better purchases while in physical stores.

The report says 82 percent of respondents used mobile search to find information about products. Comparing prices (53 percent), seeking offers and promotions (39 percent), finding locations of other stores (36 percent) and getting hours of the store (35 percent) were other top uses.
The study discovered that one-third of respondents would rather consult their phone than ask a person for information in store, assuming anyone was available.

By the way, I never found anyone at Lowe’s to get my “how much to install it” question answered.  A subsequent stop at Sears down the street was met by a real live person in appliances who was trained about the product, handed me some literature, reassured me that the installer knew what he was doing, and made some recommendations, all which resulted in a sale. While I was there, I picked up a garage door opener, too.