Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW
Consumers are now using smartphones to shop. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Retailers hope customer service trumps technologies

Stacey Vanek Smith Nov 23, 2011
Consumers are now using smartphones to shop. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Jeremy Hobson: Well of course as soon as the turkey is finished — or maybe before it’s finished — many Americans will be heading to shopping malls and big box stores to get those Black Friday deals. And this year, if you plan to be one of those discount hunters, you’d better make sure you bring your smartphone with you.

Marketplace’s Stacey Vanek Smith explains.


Stacey Vanek Smith: Smartphone apps are making shoppers very smart. They can figure out how much other retailers are charging for something, they can read product reviews, they can even buy from a competitor in a rival’s store.

Retail consultant Burt Flickinger.

Burt Flickinger: There’s a revolution in retail caused by smartphones.

Some retailers like Best Buy, Toys”R”Us and Lowe’s are embracing the revolution — handing smartphones out to employees and training them to work with tech-savvy shoppers. These employees are often empowered to give on-the-spot discounts.

Adam Hanft: So that puts real stress on the retail model.

Brand strategist Adam Hanft says brick and mortar retailers can’t lower prices too much — they have to pay for overhead costs like leases and wages. So they have to find ways to make a store visit worth paying a little extra.

Hanft: They need to really rachet up the experience so the price differential will be worth it.

Hanft says ironically enough, all of this new technology is just highlighting the importance of old-school retail values like customer service and expertise.

In New York, I’m Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.