Although the path-to-purchase has become complex, to the consumer it is still just shopping. There is one constant in this maze of a journey, the smartphone.

Looking at the findings of Planet Retail's shopper research – Shopology, which examines the behaviour and attitude of 22,500 shoppers in 15 markets on a quarterly basis, we found that 43% of shoppers have used their mobile to check prices, and 33% have used them to get more product information. We also discovered that 21% have used their mobile to go online and make a purchase while in a retailer's store.

This behaviour highlights that shoppers are not just channel, but device agnostic. More than this, they demand instant gratification, the ability to purchase however, whenever, and wherever they desire. If a retailer is unable to facilitate this behaviour they risk losing them to online rivals such as Amazon. 

However, it seems that as of now, the use of mobile wallets to pay in-store is very low – with our research showing just 5% currently using them to pay in-store. This does not mean that there is no appetite for mobile wallets or mobile payments. Far from it, 21% want to be able to pay at checkout using their mobile when in-store, while 17% want to be able to use a barcode scanning app on their phone to self-shop and go. So it seems that the mobile has the potential to create an entirely self-service in-store shopping experience that is seamless, convenient and fast. All of which will delight the instant gratification generation.

This is an exciting time for mobile payments. Not only does it appear that consumer appetite is growing, but we've reached a stage in its evolution where the disruptors are being disrupted. The likes of Square, Google and Apple are causing greater collaboration, innovation and the original pioneers to up their game, which will ultimately lead to consolidation. All of which will act as a fillip to growth. A further driver is that retailers and consumers are more likely to buy into mobile payments when big brands such as Apple and Google are offering workable solutions. With Google acquiring Softcard and Google Wallet now preloaded onto smartphones, Samsung acquiring LoopPay and integrating it into its latest Galaxy phones, not to mention Apple Pay, the roadblocks to mobile payments are slowly being dismantled. Then there is the fact payments are disappearing into mobile apps such as Uber. This is making payments invisible, with consumers becoming accustomed to making a payment without even thinking about it.

This simplified, immediate process that meets the needs of the instant gratification generation will help drive acceptance, and mobile payments will become seen as the norm almost by stealth.

Mobile wallets are more than just about payment however. Shoppers are device agnostic, and will interact in whatever way is most convenient and comfortable, dependent on time, location and urgency, switching between devices as appropriate. This has given rise to the need for contextual interaction that enables retailers to hyper-target customers when they're most likely to buy, and gather relevant data so they can continuously improve the shopping experience. Indeed, mobiles are now a vital tool in nurturing and rewarding brand advocacy.

Shoppers are not only using their phones to make better informed purchasing decisions, but are showing an appetite for using them to transact online and as a payment method in-store. This coupled with the fact we found that 45% of shoppers retailer of choice is influenced by the provision of alternative payments, the message is clear. Mobile wallets and mobile payment solutions are set to become essential in enabling the always on, instant gratification generation to pay however, whenever, and wherever they choose.

The future belongs to mobile, and that future is now.

Malcolm Pinkerton is research director for eCommerce at Planet Retail. He writes a regular Essential Retail column on global eCommerce trends.

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