Smartphones dominate pre-purchase activities in shops: report

Reseach by Google and MARC finds 84 per cent of shoppers use their smartphone to help make purchases while in-store, and prefer search over apps

New research undertaken by Google has found 84 per cent of shoppers use their smartphone to help make purchases while in-store, marking a significant shift in pre-shopping behaviour.

The new Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices</i>, which was conducted by Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and MARC Research, reported 79 per cent of smartphone owners are smartphone shoppers, with 82 per cent using search engines to make purchase decisions while physically in a store.

Pre-shopping activities dominated usage for 90 per cent of smartphone shoppers. Just over 50 per cent of those using phones while shopping are doing price comparisons, followed by finding offers and promotions (39 per cent), finding locations of other stores (36 per cent) and finding hours (35 per cent).

Mobile sites are also preferred over apps by 65 per cent of the survey respondents.

The more mobile the shoppers are, the more they buy too. Google pointed out the median basket size for appliances jumps from US$250 to $350 when it comes to frequent smartphone shoppers. Appliances and groceries lead the list of product segments followed by baby care, electronics and household care.

“While many businesses might assume that smartphone use in-store drives shoppers to seek better prices elsewhere and order online, we found that the opposite was true,” Google product marketing manager of mobile ads, Adam Grunewald, said in a blog post. “We compared the in-store purchases of moderate and frequent smartphone users and found that basket sizes of frequent mobile shoppers were 25-50 per cent higher.

“Marketers shouldn’t shy away from the showrooming challenge, and should instead meet it head-on.”

Smartphone shoppers are defined as those using a smartphone to assist with shopping at least once a month, while frequent smartphone shoppers use their devices at least once a week. One in three shoppers will also use their smartphones instead of asking store employees.

Understanding this new retail behaviour opens up opportunities for brands to connect with customers in key consideration moments, Grunewald claimed. He cited a range of initiatives already being used such as QR codes that share more information about products via a smartphone, or apps with store maps and real-time inventory.

“Whatever tactics marketers choose, it’s clear smartphones are changing the in-store experience and that winning the key decision moments at the physical shelves means owning the digital shelves too.”

The report was based on surveys of 1,507 smartphone owners who use mobile devices for shopping and was undertaken in the last quarter of 2012. Google and MARC pre-empted this with a qualitative study in Q3, 2012.

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