Why should we care how many people are packing iPhones and BlackBerrys? Because these aren’t phones. They’re powerful, portable computers that let people do all the tasks formerly done on a big, bulky home computer–any time, anywhere. They can log onto Facebook at Tim Hortons and Pinterest at the mall. They can compare deals in line at the supermarket and email customer service about how long it’s taking to pay. Smartphones are going to change the way people shop in ways we can hardly fathom. And they’re going to shift the balance of power from retailers to consumers.
But there’s good news for retailers, too. Smartphones are two-way devices. Using apps and social media, they can speak directly to their customers. Grocery manufacturers, meanwhile, are no longer forced to fit their story on a tiny product label. They can tell of their product’s origins and special ingredients through QR codes instantly downloadable in the aisles. And if shoppers still waver, a gentle nudge to buy, in the form of a coupon, can be sent to their phone right there and then.