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During a recent technology summit in Northwest Arkansas, one of the speakers noted that audience members would check their mobile phones an average of 5.2 times during her 45-minute presentation. For millennials that number would be more like 15.6 phone checks during those 45 minutes.

"No way," I immediately thought.

Then somewhere around the 10th or 11th check of my phone, I lost count.

It had nothing to do with the quality or the content of the presentation, by the way. The information was interesting and delivered in an engaging way by Sam's Club chief member officer Tracey Brown.

But email wasn't going to check itself. What were people saying about the conference (among other things) on Twitter? Plus, it was too tempting not to check what had my text message notifications popping up.

Later that night I went to sleep comforted in knowing that I wasn't all that odd for tucking my phone under my pillow. Brown said about 60 percent of Americans now sleep within arm's reach of their phones.

Most of us would acknowledge mobile technology has become a big part of our lives. This isn't a new concept, but the numbers were a good reminder of how important the mobile experience has become for us, and by extension, retailers and marketers.

During a separate seminar at that same technology summit, Jon Stine -- Intel's global director of sales and strategy for retail, hospitality and consumer goods -- outlined why retailers are spending so much to perfect their mobile and multichannel shopping strategies.

Americans are spending 9.9 hours per day on screens (mobile phone, TV, personal computer and tablet, among others). Intel data reveal that 60 percent to 65 percent of U.S. consumers begin their shopping by going online.

Still, as much as 90 percent of purchases are made in stores. That means serving customers online and in stores is a must for retailers like Wal-Mart, Stine said.

"Being agile and flexible has never been more important for retailers than right now," he added, noting that the mobile phone has become "the remote control for your daily life."

As we become accustomed to websites that load and refresh in 20 milliseconds, saving time has become as high a priority as saving money.

Brown noted that through its app, and the ability for customers to order and pay without ever interacting with a person, Starbucks has shaved a full minute off the time it usually takes to get in and out with a cup of coffee. That adds up to about 5 million minutes a month being saved.

More and more consumers are demanding that the in-store shopping experience be as fast as it is online. We're looking for what Stine described as the "living, breathing Internet."

Mobile devices help make that more of a reality. Shopping experiences are moving increasingly fast and will only get faster from here as retailers continue to blur the lines between the in-store and online experiences.

Sam's Club and Wal-Mart offer mobile check-ins through their apps, which are handy when picking up products ordered online. Retailers have the technology to cater specifically to you during shopping trips. They have data on what you buy and when you buy it, so before long you'll enter a store and get a notification that the toilet paper you prefer is on sale.

Target is publicly testing the technology. Others have conducted testing off the radar. It's clear that companies are being intentional in their deployment of this type of communication with customers.

Stine envisions a day when the screens in our vehicles will also be included in the retail experience. You'll tell the car your plans for the weekend, and the screen will point you in the direction of the nearest hardware store, shopping mall or grocery store to meet those needs.

"We've just started this era of change," Stine said. "If you think it's moving fast now, buckle up. Get ready for the head snap."

And unless you can avoid checking your phone once every 3-9 minutes, good luck avoiding the changes ahead.

If you have a tip, call Chris Bahn at (479) 365-2972 or email him at

cbahn@nwaonline.com

SundayMonday Business on 11/22/2015

Print Headline: Reliance on electronic devices is just getting started, tech speakers say

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