Don’t look now, but the smartphone might end up being more friend than foe to the retail industry. According to a new study from xAd and Telmetrics, mobile now accounts for one third of all retail activity online with 98 million shoppers using a smartphone as their retail experience. And the vast majority of those mobile shoppers end up making purchases in-store – not on Amazon.
The findings of the study, which was conducted by Nielsen, contradict the anecdotal “showrooming” trend (in which consumers research on a mobile device then buy online or in another store) that has led some retailers to match prices found online and others to cut access to wi-fi in the store. The study found that 77% of smartphone users who make a purchase after looking up retail-related information on their device buy in-store — compared to only 20% who do so online.
“People are using the smartphone in the store as a compliment to what they’re doing,” says Bill Dinan, president of Telmetrics, the call tracking company that co-sponsored the survey. “When you start to view the smartphone as a complement to the purchase cycle, and as retailers understand that, that number will only increase.”
The mistake, says Dinan, is to think of the smartphone as a “last mile” device, only used to compare product or prices in-store. The report found that half (54%) of all retail-related activity on smartphones occurs at the beginning of the purchase cycle, well before the consumer walks into the store. That’s compared to 11% of shoppers who said they use their device at the end of their research process.
Nonetheless, those mobile consumers end up purchasing at an astounding rate. The report found that 56% of all mobile retail users went on to make a purchase. That’s in-line with a recent Google survey, which found that more than half of all mobile searches result in a phone call, store visit, or purchase.
Underlining findings in other reports, the study also found that location matters for mobile users. One quarter of users said they considered the proximity of the retail business was the most important factor when looking for information on a mobile device. And 57% of respondents said they expected locations to be within five miles of their location.
The bottom line is that mobile usage continues to evolve as the hardware and software improves. Certain tentpoles of mobile behavior like immediacy and proximity remain constant, but others like showrooming vary based on the applications and services available in the market.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.