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More than half of smartphone owners use mobile devices in retail stores: study

More than half of smartphone owners are using their devices to enhance their shopping experience by comparing prices, finding store locations and checking for discounts, including two-thirds of those under 35.

That is according to a report from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, which found that smartphones are becoming an indispensable tool in the shopping experience. The study of 1,400-plus showed that iPhone owners top the list with more than 70 percent reporting they use applications or the phone’s Web browser to assist them while shopping in-store.

“Smartphones are a major part of the shopping experience for more than half of online Americans now, particularly Generation Y and even Gen Xers,” said Chris Neil, vice president of technology and telecom at Chadwick Martin Bailey, Boston. “They are using their smartphones to search for you before they even step in the store—that’s how they find you.

“Mobile can influence sales and drive foot traffic, whether consumers access a store locator, scan a bar code or run a price comparison,” he said. “People who actually click to buy is much lower than the number of consumers that use their smartphones for the research process, as some people still have concerns about making transactions.

“Many of your most valuable customers now and even more in the future are using smartphones, which reveals optimization opportunities for retailers.”

This study was done as part of Chadwick Martin Bailey’s self-funded CMB Consumer Pulse program.

Data was collected from 1,491 adults ages 18 and over via a nationally representative online survey questionnaire within the United States by Chadwick Martin Bailey the week of Jan. 20.

In addition, iModerate Research Technologies conducted online, one-on-one discussions to more fully contextualize their mobile shopping behaviors.

Mobile shopping on the rise
While iPhone owners are leading the way in comparison-shopping on their smartphones, 41 percent are also making actual purchases on their phone.

Given the strong growth in smartphone ownership, everyone is dependent on the in-store experience – from retailers to product manufacturers – each must take advantage of opportunities these devices provide for generating sales and improving the customer experience, per Chadwick Martin Bailey.

Along with designs for packaging, displays and signage, smartphone-based communication is a necessary element of retail planning.

The study also identifies key differences by gender.

Women are more likely to use their smartphone to find discounts, while men are more likely to check online reviews.

When it comes to the applications consumers use on their phones, 44 percent use a bar code scanning app, 38 percent use a discount app such as Groupon and LivingSocial, and 31 percent turn to review sites. 

Here are some examples of consumers’ responses:

“I use my smartphone to scan the bar code and check the prices online and reviews of the product…saving time and effort by purchasing the right product for me the first time around so I don’t have to return and buy again.” -Female, age 18-24

“I was able to shop with more confidence knowing that I was getting a fair price.” – Female, age 40-44

In addition, the study also found that 23 percent of smartphone owners have made a purchase on their device, the majority of which—41 percent—take place on an iPhone.

Entertainment purchases such as music, movies and TV shows top the list at 46 percent, banking makes up 39 percent, electronics 29 percent and online auctions 25 percent.

“Consumer behavior varies by group, and retailers must understand who their customers are,” Mr. Neil said. “While this is more relevant for younger demographics, you do need a mobile strategy no matter what your target—it is not a passing trend, it is here to stay and it will only increase over time.

“Consumers are becoming ever more price-sensitive and ever less loyal, so mobile couponing programs will be increasingly important,” he said. “That can differentiate between competitors and give them an incentive to buy from you when there are so many other options online.

 “The types of applications people use on smartphones, the scanner apps are most prevalent, as well as the discount apps such as Groupon and Living Social—many use these types of apps as part of the path to purchase.”

Final Take