How The Smartphone Revolution Hit The Retail World

Smartphones have upended communication and consumption, leaving retailers to transform themselves to attract fickle, online buyers.

Shopping bags and smartphones?
Shopping bags and smartphones?
Rubén Belluomo

SANTIAGO — Apple founder Steve Jobs reinvented an entire market when he launched the iPhone in San Francisco, on June 29, 2007. Not just telephones, but our lives, changed that day. The first iPhone was a magical device that soon became our little window to the world, a pocket-sized computer that has redefined how we communicate, study and consume.

Perhaps the smartphone's biggest effect has been to release waves of creativity between customers and firms, changing forever how humans interact with products and brands. This, in turn, has transformed entire industries: Hotel and accommodations have seen the arrival of Airbnb; taxis now contend with Uber; and films and music are downloaded or streamed, not bought on discs. Speaking by phone is now just one real-time communication option.

The next decade cannot be predicted, but we can observe 10 ways in which the iPhone has changed shopping over the past decade:

1. Phone device is at core of retail

Before smartphones, people visited shops, searched through the racks and asked for assistance, which led to their selecting certain items. Now the process begins, and is very often completed, online. Smartphones have changed the consumer's relationship with brands, and retail firms are under unprecedented pressure to provide a consistent experience through all channels, and be available at all times and everywhere.

2. Customer in command

The ease of use of mobile phones, the amount of information online, the choice of firms and easy access to opinions on social networks have an enormous influence on consumers. Firms no longer dictate when, where and how to buy. Clients can look for products as they please, and with more possibilities for choosing and comparing prices than ever before. The internet is a 24/7 platform.

3. Personalized supply chain

If the supply chain is a means to an end, the end is no longer the shop. The consumer can decide online when to receive purchases, and seek more information on the product's origins, how it is delivered and prices. The supply chain has thus moved up from a back-office function to an indicator of how competitive a firm is.

4. A shop without walls

Location used to be everything and businesses would set up shop in prime selling locations, and even saturate the physical marketplace. Now they are rethinking the very nature of the shop. It has been a painful experience for some, and prompted shop closures and reduced physical presence. But it also forged a new way of thinking about how one buys, with as many offers online now as in shopfront windows.

5. Experience is everything

With smartphones and the information they carry, firms can no longer compete on the basis of price and variety alone. They must provide an experience that meets their customers' expectations, and is available consistently at all contact points. Whether looking for a good offer or providing advanced services, experience is what makes the difference between firms.

6. New kind of employee

The retail experience lives and dies with employees. With highly informed and connected customers, workers must absolutely have the necessary tools, like the right knowledge to answer queries or recommend products pertinently. If the special product is not in stock, they must be ready to find it in another business, seek alternatives or assure the customer it will be sent as soon as it arrives. Otherwise, the customer is certain to move elsewhere.

7. Showroom

People like to compare before buying, and smartphones have made it easy to see something in a shop, then compare it online with similar products or its price elsewhere. You could snap a photo and send it to friends for their opinion, which may or may not lead to a purchase. For firms, this new ability to choose means they must be consistent at all contact points, while having products that are exclusive and desirable is an advantage.

8. Data and connectivity

Smartphones have enhanced consumer knowledge and access to firms, products and services. They are also an opportunity for firms to create customer loyalty: Those with the right know-how to form accurate customer profiles will connect data from various contact points and invest money in specific promotions targeted at appropriate customers.

9. Straight path to buyer

Smartphones have become a shortcut from firms to customers. They have increased competition for customer loyalty and created shorter life cycles for products. Before, a brand presented its collection in Fashion Week and months later, you could buy the items in shops. Now, many firms start selling when the product is being displayed on the catwalk, while some brands present collections online or on social networks.

10. Customer is King (or Queen)

Since the iPhone appeared, products must not only look good in shops but also online. Firms are using new strategies like marketing by influencers, and Virtual or Augmented Reality experiences to help customers visualize themselves with products before buying.

One More Thing...

Jobs was outstanding at marketing and presentation, and created a desire for his products. People queued up to see, touch and buy an iPhone in 2007. And the same happens every year, when Apple fans anxiously wait for its successors. No smartphone has been perfect, not even the iPhone, but Apple and Jobs never let perfection get in the way of progress.

To keep abreast of a constantly changing market, retail firms must think like tech firms. As any given customer needs change constantly, the business model must also evolve, learn from other markets and incorporate new technologies. If retail firms want to survive, they must choose the path of constant evolution.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here


• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.


South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.



In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.


Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Keep reading... Show less
Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!