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Physical retailers need to stop being afraid of the mobile shopping revolution and play to their strengths instead, a panel of executives told the audience at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit today.

VentureBeat brought together Google’s head of mobile Jason Spero, PayPal’s mobile head Hill Ferguson, and the founder of NeuAer Dave Mathews to discuss the current state of mobile shopping. The big takeaway for brick and mortar retailers? You may not be able to beat online stores when it comes to price, but there’s a lot more that you can offer with a physical presence.

The panelists pointed to high-end retail store experiences like the Apple Store, which offers knowledgeable sales people, the chance to try out products, and (more recently) the ability to check out directly from your phone. Google’s Jason Spero pointed out how a local store could offer additional services to make its consumers overlook higher prices, such as installation for complicated products like grills.

“I think that the definition of a retailer has to change,” Spero said.

But while bigger retailers quake in their boots over the concept of mobile shopping, the execs pointed out how smaller businesses can take advantage of newer payments technologies.

“We’re starting to see small businesses get access to technology and capabilities that are a whole generation ahead of bigger companies,” PayPal’s Hill Ferguson said.

Ferguson pointed out how mobile payments can help to attract sales in commodity products like gas. A new deal between PayPal and the gas station chain Cumberland Farms, for example, will allow customers to pay for gas from their phone. That could be a bonus for consumers during cold winter months.


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