If you own a smartphone and have made a purchase from it, then I am sure you are well aware of the simplicity and benefits when shopping from your smartphone. Many mobile sites and mobile apps have perfected the shopping experience and have made it unbelievably easy for users to shop while on the go.

Recently, one of the bulbs in my track lighting on my kitchen ceiling went out. The bulb was some sort of small bi-pin bulb that left the guys at two local hardware stores scratching their head when I brought in the specs of the bulb which were listed on the inside of the housing. I wrote down these details in my “Notes” app on my iPhone so that I could easily refer back to the details when I was in the store trying to locate these bulbs. After no luck at both hardware stores, I put this purchase on the back burner and forgot about it. A week or so later, I found myself in a crowded waiting room, bored and started going through my phone to clean out some old notes I had left myself. I came across this bulb that I needed. I quickly copied the details and opened up the Amazon app, hit paste and it found several different types with reviews, pricing and shipping details in a simple to read list view. I selected the one I needed, added to “my cart” and within a few clicks this bulb was on it’s way to my house. I left that doctor’s appointment feeling more productive than ever!

Without that downtime and my smartphone, I would have probably wasted an entire Saturday afternoon calling, searching or driving around to find this bulb. Smartphone devices really allow us to engage and shop in these little increments of downtime we all have in our lives. It could be the 10 minutes before bed, waiting rooms, bus stops, train rides, taxi rides… you get the point. It’s now up to brands to get in front of the user with their mobile website or their mobile app. Once you get in front of users it’s almost equally important to make the entire process simple for the user. You may be at the top of their mind and they may attempt to make a purchase but the second you confuse them or make something too complicated, the chance for them to get side-tracked or leave greatly increases. Adding features like “repeat last order” if you are a restaurant, pizza place or sub shop allows users to not only repeat a favorite order, but sometimes a user just wants something simple and this feature could be the reason why they order. This exact feature is the core reason I order from Jimmy Johns, because they have made it incredibly simple for me to open the app, tap 4 buttons and the sandwich arrives 10 minutes later.

It will be interesting to see how brands start enhancing their mobile strategy in 2012 and find new ways to engage with their customers as the mobile space starts to get more and more competitive. Brands will have to think of creative ways to gain new customers and stay engaged, giving them a reason to shop with you or better yet, a reason not to shop with anyone else!