Working Smart, Smart Devices and Now Smart Shopping

If you love shopping or just like to save money (is there anyone walking this earth who doesn't?) and you have an Internet-connected device in your pocket or purse (i.e., smartphone and/or tablet) then you are part of the smart shopping revolution. Information is power, and when it comes to parting with money, we need all the information available to get the best out of what we want at the best price. According to Google's 2013 mobile research survey, you're a smart shopper if you do things like:

• Use your phone or tablet to find a retailer's location and hours.
• Read online product reviews while standing in front of the product display in a store.
• Use an app to find the best deal on items on your shopping list.
• Check that the item you want is in stock before you head to the store.
• Search for electronic promos and coupons on the item you want to buy.

The term "smart shopping" is part of the trend of labeling emerging technologies as smart: working smart, smart cars, smart buddy, smart magnets. Now there's that little smartphone and its relatives, in the form of tablets, which shoppers cannot do without. There's no denying it - advancement in the Internet and its ecosystem has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, work, entertain and of course, the way we shop. These advancements enable your mobile devices to become a savvy friend who always tells you where the best deals are, and when you need to go shop around.

The adaption of ecommerce was slow in the early days of online shopping as consumers worried about privacy issues, identity theft, product quality, timely delivery, ease of returns, and so on. These were legitimate concerns, but they have now been adequately addressed. Thanks to the evolving technology and maturation in the ecommerce industry, consumers nowadays are no longer likely to shy away from making online purchases.

The products of choice are also not limited to electronic goods and books, but have expanded into groceries and even fresh produce. With options of two-days or even same day shipping, consumers can experience a form of "instant gratification" in shopping as when they buy online. Brick-and-mortar retailers have also embraced this channel, and many have gone one step beyond by developing their own consumer-oriented shopping apps or partnering with shopping app start-ups. It is due to the shear force generated out of consumer demand and efforts by e-tailers and traditional retailers that smart shopping emerged.

So how has smart shopping changed the retail landscape? Again, according to the Google survey, one in three shoppers uses a smartphone to find information instead of asking store employees. Retailers took notice of this trend and are making product information easy to find, offering special deals to in-store buyers, and price-matching online competitors.

So as a consumer, how do you use a mobile device to your advantage? Smart buyers know the answer. For a quick product order or price comparison while lounging somewhere comfortable, nothing beats a tablet. Its big screen means it's easy to use if you want to carry out thorough research or just browse products and sales in your area.

But nothing beats the smartphone if you are on the move or actually in a shop and stuck with two similar products fighting for your attention. It's the most portable option, and it's the one you always have with you.

If you haven't become a smart shopper yet, the next time you are in a store, pull out that smart device, research, compare and save.

Grace Chan is vice president of product management for Wanderful Media, a startup reimagining the digital circular with Find&Save. Her product development experience includes leadership roles at MerchantCircle, Yahoo! and Intel.