How Shoppers Use their Phones in Stores

by Chuck Martin on November 7, 2013

Mobile Marketing Speaker, Keynote SpeakerBy Chuck Martin

The oft-repeated saying that people may forget their keys and wallets at home but not their phones is proving very true for in-store shoppers.

A majority (70%) of consumers have their smartphones with them in stores and many are actively using them, according to a new study that looks at in-store mobile behaviors.

As they browse in stores, many (30%) shoppers have those phones literally in their hands, according to the study by Usablenet.

Mobile shopping behavior is only increasing and evolving as more people get smartphones and start to use them more in the path to purchase.

For example, the study found that a large number (79%) of U.S. shoppers now use their phones for browsing and shopping on websites and apps. In the U.K., that number is a bit lower (64%), though the U.S. and U.K. behaviors found  in the study overall were somewhat similar.

Consumers are using their phones to gather information as they shop.

The Usablenet study found that while using a retailer’s website or app while in a store, consumers compared the store’s price to the online price and searched for an online coupon or customer reviews.

While the merchant may be focusing their efforts on interacting with the customer in the store, that customer may also be influenced in real time by someone outside of the store, since the top use by most customers who use their smartphones while in-store browsing is messaging or emailing a friend.

Here are the top in-store uses:

  • 84% — Messaging/emailing a friend
  • 71% — Compare product prices
  • 64% — Using social networks
  • 51% — Checking customer reviews

The study found that the majority (51%) of shoppers do product research on their smartphone, which is consistent with other studies.

As additional insights into the apps vs. mobile websites issue we wrote about yesterday (Apps vs. Mobile Websites & the Consumer Choice), the study found that more than a third (36%) of shoppers do not purchase on mobile retail sites but do purchase on apps.

Though I’m not sure the real issue here is the actual physical transaction as it is more about the influence on the purchase decisions throughout the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle.

And while many consumers will make purchase on tablets, most (78%) do not take them to the store.

People may ultimately make a purchase in the store, but there are many mobile influence points that help determine the product and which store it may come from.


Chuck Martin is Editor of the mCommerce Daily at MediaPost and writes the daily MobileShopTalk column. He is the author of “Mobile Influence,” “The Third Screen,” and “The Smartphone Handbook.” He is CEO of Mobile Future Institute. Chuck Martin is a frequent Mobile Keynote Speaker and Mobile Marketing Speaker internationally. He also addresses Social Media in Mobile.


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