Study: 77 Percent Of Smartphone-Driven Retail Purchases Happen In Stores

xAd | 05/22/2013

As part of its “Mobile Path to Purchase” research, Nielsen, xAd and Telmetrics have released some additional findings about the use of mobile devices in retail shopping. Among other things, the research argues that so-called showrooming is “overhyped” and not that widely practiced by consumers. Other research, most recently from Google, suggests the opposite.

The Mobile Path-to-Purchase study (a follow up to a similar study in 2012) was based on online survey data (n=2,000) and behavioral observation from “Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel of 6,000 Apple and Android users.” The study looked at mobile activities in several verticals, including retail shopping.

The retail shopping report says 42 percent of users relied exclusively on mobile devices in their pre-purchase research. The finding of the broader study, involving more verticals, is that overall “mobile only” number is 46 percent. That’s a remarkable finding: nearly half the audience isn’t using the PC to do research before buying.

Nielsen mobile retail shopping

The study found that “more than half (55 percent) of mobile retail shoppers ultimately make a purchase.” It also found that over 30 percent of smartphone owners and 25 percent of tablet users had immediate needs and wanted to make purchases within an hour. However, most tablet shoppers “have longer purchase cycles with deeper research intent as 41 percent take a month or longer to make a purchase.”

Most smartphone shoppers convert in stores, while tablet shopping tends to be completed online (56 percent). The report says that 77 percent of smartphone-based purchase activity occurs in-person, offline.

The common perception of the role of mobile in the consumer purchase process is as a “last-mile” medium. This report seeks to dispel that notion and argues, based on the findings, that mobile devices are used for shopping throughout the purchase process. Indeed, according to the report findings, smartphones are more often used at the beginning than at the end of the process.

Nielsen mobile shopping behavior

These findings, which are echoed by other research, hold significant implications for mobile advertising. Like PC advertising, mobile is both a branding and direct response medium. However, it may be a “more appropriate” branding and awareness medium than the PC in some respects.

The report seeks to debunk the notion that smartphone shoppers are constantly showrooming in stores. It says that showrooming (comparison shopping) actually happens before and after store visits and not as much in store aisles as has been asserted:

Only 6 percent of smartphone users conducted their most recent mobile retail search in-store . . . Mobile shoppers are in fact using their devices for comparison-shopping before and after an in-store visit. 

Earlier research from Pew and other research sponsored by Google suggest that large numbers of consumers do “showroom” (compare prices) on their smartphones while in stores, however.

Finally, as has been reported previously, location plays a significant role in smartphone user decision-making vs. tablet shopping. Tablet usage mainly occurs “at home” and not “on the go.” Here are some of the findings associated with smartphones and location:               

  • The majority of smartphone users expect retailers to be within five miles of their location (57 percent)
  • 24 percent of smartphone users consider local proximity of the business to be the most important search variable
  • Business contact information is critical; more than 1 out of 3 users are looking specifically for retailer contact details (phone number, address, directions)

This is more evidence of the multi-platform reality marketers now confront. This study and others argue strongly that all digital platforms must be addressed and, hopefully, coordinated. Yet, mobile must be considered at least as important as the PC, given that large numbers of people are relying on smartphones and tablets as their primary and even exclusive shopping tools.

Click here to download the Mobile Path to Purchase Retail Report

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