Marketing agency Ogilvy surveyed 1,500 punters and found that more and more innovators and early adopters (excuse the marketing-speak) were using their phones to help them make decisions and get better bargains while they're out shopping in the real world. Which suggests the rest of us Luddites will be doing the same very soon.
The phone can of course be used for far more these days than simply ringing to locate an elusive copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley. 85% of innovators searched Google from a phone while in a store to get more information on a product; 60% asked a store to match a price by showing a web page from a phone; and 64% looked at a product in-store and then ordered it from a phone before they'd even left the shop. That latter infidelity may well have shop-owners cowering behind the counter: it's like inviting people round to your house to show off your cooking skills, only for everyone to sit there scoffing all the food one of your guests brought with them instead.
Obviously not everything that becomes a trend among innovators always reaches the rest of us (otherwise we'd all be turning up for work wearing Lady Gaga-style meat dresses). So it's interesting to see that what the marketers call the early majority (the bunch that first follows the innovators when a new thing starts taking off) has similarly been turning to their phones - 40% of the early majority who own smartphones are searching Google in stores for product information - and they tend to be far more indicative of what the majority will end up doing.
If any retailers remain sceptical that these habits will really go mainstream, they should look at online retail and see how the herd there followed a similar pattern. And they might also want to learn some lessons from the music industry in particular: the old-school labels tried doggedly to defend themselves against the onslaught of digital, but ultimately had to succumb or pay the price.
So the answer may well be to heed their example and embrace the mobile, not fight it, using it instead as another tool to back up your physical offering and build long-term relationships with shoppers - as the more successful retailers have been doing for years with well-considered websites. That is if they don't want to be stood there idly fiddling with their wares as their punters openly cheat on them...