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Use of mobile doubles for researching and completing online purchases: report

In the past year, Internet shopping via a PC or laptop dropped from 78 percent to 63 percent, while the use of smartphones doubled from 8 percent to 15 percent and tablets from 5 percent to 10 percent, according to a new report from GfK.

A key takeaway from the GfK’s 2014 FutureBuy study is that the shopper environment has become very dynamic as foundational behaviors evolve, with significant variability in place by category and generation. The findings underscore the need for retailers to have a well thought out omnichannel strategy and infrastructure in place.

“While desktop and laptops are still the lion’s share of shopping time for folks, they are down dramatically,” said Joe Beier, executive vice president of shopper and retail strategy.  “That is all going right into being picked by the mobile devices.

“I don’t think anybody was surprised that it is shifting to those devices from the fixed devices but I think what was eye-opening for us is the rate of that shift,” he said. “There is nothing that would suggest that that should slow down dramatically. It may hit somewhat of a ceiling, where fixed devices retain a hardcore share of that activity.

“It is not hard to image a future in which, if we have a couple more years of that kind of a shift, there could be a very different looking shopping environment that is tremendously much more mobile than it has been historically.”

Webrooming bypasses showrooming
The use of smartphones and tablets for online shopping varies by generation.

In the past six months, 21 percent of Generation Z used a smartphone to shop, up 8 percentage points compared with a year ago. In comparison, smartphone shopping was reported by 25 percent of Generation Y, up 11 percentage points; by 15 percent of Generation X, up 7 percentage points, and by 7 percent of Baby Boomers, up 4 percentage points.

When it comes to tablet use, 9 percent of Generation Z used one for shopping in the past six months, up 2 percentage points. In comparison, 10 percent of Generation Y used a tablet while 11 percent of Generation X did so, up 5 percentage points. Among Baby Boomers, 10 percent used a tablet, up 8 percentage points.

The report also found webrooming is bypassing showrooming as mobile shopping evolves.

Mobile shoppers are more likely to use their smartphones to search for a product before making a purchase in-store than they are to purchase online after seeing a product in-store.

The global study of shopping habits found showrooming is shrinking, with 28 percent of users having engaged this activity, down from 37 percent last year. At the same time, more consumers are engaging in webrooming, at 41 percent.

Omnichannel experiences
A takeaway from the study of shopping habits across 17 countries is that consumers are combining online and in-person shopping for a variety of types of purchase, even low-value ones.

The preference for webrooming over showrooming spans multiple generations. Only Generation Z preferred showrooming, but not by much.

The report found that, in the past six months, 30 percent of Baby Boomers engaged in webrooming compared to 18 percent who have showroomed. For Generation X, 43 percent have webroomed while 29 percent have showroomed.

For Generation Y, 46 percent webroomed while 32 percent have showroomed. For Generation Z, 34 percent have webroomed and 39 percent have showroomed.

The percentage of U.S. shoppers who report having combined online and in-person shopping activities jumped 7 percentage points in the past year

Looking for value
Across 15 product and service categories studied, 44 percent of US shoppers reported combining online and in-person shopping activities, a jump of 7 percentage points from a year ago.

Previously, such behavior was typically limited to big-ticket purchases. However, the study found that 39 percent of U.S. shoppers are engaging in this omnichannel behavior while shopping for beauty and personal care products, 29 percent for lawn and garden purchase and 22 percent for food and beverages.

The largest increases in omnichannel shopping came in home improvement, at 57 percent of shoppers, up 19 points; auto, also at 57 percent, up 14 points, and over-the-counter medications, at 27 percent, up 12 points.

The report also found a group of leading-edge consumers who are highly involved in shopping, early adopters and very influential. These shoppers are much more focused on mobile and on value as opposed to being brand loyal.

Savvy retailers will take the time to understand these shoppers and build them into their marketing plans.

“Make sure you are able to offer a seamless omnichannel experience to shoppers,” Mr. Beier said.

“There is a bigger point, sitting on top of the uptick in mobile shopping activity, which is that shoppers are increasingly shopping in an omnichannel way, too,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York