How Shopping With Your Cell Phone Will Help You Buy Green

Johan Larsson/CC BY 1.0

Using cell phones for shopping has been on the radar for years now, but it seems like only recently that using mobile devices to figure out what to buy and where has really gained a foothold among consumers. Om Malik of GigaOm points out a Deoitte study with some interesting figures:

27% of US smartphone users will use the device during in-store holiday shopping: A new Deloitte survey (Oct 26) of 5,000 U.S. consumers says of the 42% of consumers who own a smartphone, 27% will use the device while shopping for the holidays. 67% of these shoppers will use the devices to find store locations, 59% to compare prices, 46% to check product availability, 45% to shop at online stores, and 40% will scan bar codes.

As Malik points out, this isn't necessarily about finding the best bargains, but rather finding what you want and where it is located. This can be a major opportunity for green-minded shoppers.

There are two significant ways that this rise in using smart phones for shopping can pay off for those hoping to minimize their carbon footprint during the holiday season (and any time of the year) -- minimizing trips to the store and scanning products in the store to compare their environmental credentials.

Using Smart Phones to Decide Where to Shop
We know that deciding between online shopping and buying locally for which is more green can be a headache -- we have to factor in what the products are, where they're shipped from, how they're shipped, how you're getting to the store, and so on. But a smart phone can help with both.

If you find that it is better to buy the item online, you can do so from your phone. But if you find you need to buy the item locally, you can find out the nearest location that stocks it -- and you can also find out the best route to take from store to store if buying several items. As the study points out, we can expect about 67% of smart phone owners who are going to use their phone for shopping will use it for finding store locations. You might as well use your phone to figure out the best way to get to the store and back, which can minimize how much time you spend in the car and reduce carbon emissions. But that isn't the only possible benefit.

Malik points out, "A result of this mobile-inspired behavior is that most of my shopping dollars are ending up with Amazon and a handful of other online destinations. I am not alone. Amazon is seeing a lot of people send more of their dollars to the Seattle-based online giant."

While you might find a better deal online than locally, there is another factor to consider. We know that 73% of money spent on local goods is reinvested in the community, while only 10% of money spent at major chain stores makes it back into the local economy. So your local shopping could mean more than just getting a better deal, or lowering your carbon footprint by a fraction. It could mean supporting the community in which you live.

Using Smart Phones To Decide What Brands to Support
Your bar code scanner app is your best friend when it comes to trying to figure out what product is greener (or green at all) when you're in the store staring down choice after choice. As the study noted, about 40% of smart phone owners who are going to use their phone for shopping will use it for scanning bar codes. There is a wide variety of reasons, but if you have the environment in mind, your main reason is to find out which brand is better for the planet.

GoodGuide has really taken the lead on helping consumers make smart choices while in the stores. Their barcode scanner app connects you to their ever-growing database of information about individual products, the company that makes that product, and their environmental impact.

GoodGuide isn't the only app -- there are numerous apps that will help you identify if a product is green, even within a certain category of products, such as with Greenpeace's app that tells you which paper products are easiest on deforestation.

Smart Phones for Smart Shoppers
The smart phone is becoming an invaluable resource for shopping, right down to becoming the device you use to pay for your items with the emergence of Google Wallet and the Starbucks app for buying coffee. We're only just getting started on using mobile devices to tell us what to buy, where, and for how much. You can get ahead of the curve and improve your shopping habits by testing out these tools this holiday season.

Tags: Cell Phones | Consumerism | Gadgets | Shopping

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