If you attend the Consumer Electronics Show or any mobile-focused conference, a notion prevails that physical retail locations are becoming "showcases for products" rather than places where people actually buy those products. The story goes that consumers everywhere are using smartphones to scan barcodes while in store to compare retailers to get the best price. If the store they are in doesn't have it, they walk—or worse yet, buy it from Amazon on the spot. Several retailers mentioned it as a concern when I interviewed them for the Ad Age Insights trend report, Mobile Marketing: M-Commerce.
I heard it cited by a panelist in a session on tablets and smartphones at CES. The literati have also jumped into the fray and in-a much forwarded op-ed in the New York Times, National Book Award-winning novelist Richard Russo decried scan 'n scamming in respect to books as the true death knell of bookstores (didn't Amazon ring that about 10 years ago?) and a behavior any right-thinking individual should be morally opposed to.
As an industry analyst covering mobile, I'm always suspicious of behaviors that aren't yet mainstream but since they are common among the denizens of Manhattan/Brooklyn and San Francisco/Silicon Valley are deemed to be an absolute trend. (For the past two years, the "hot but not really" behavior was location-based check-ins. This never went mainstream despite what people who go to South by Southwest or fund mobile start ups wanted to believe.)