JiWire: 34% of In-Store Consumers Compare Prices on Mobile Devices

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JiWire, a mobile audience company that uses public Wi-Fi hotspots to connect advertisers with consumers, has released a new “Mobile Audience Insights Report” which highlights the continued growth of connected mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) as well as the growing role of mobile devices in the brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

One of the big findings of the study, which was drawn from a randomized sample of 4,000 respondents, is that consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to compare prices and products while at a store location. “What we found here was that 34% of consumers like to comparison shop on their mobile device,” David Staas, JiWire’s VP of marketing, told Street Fight. “Retailers are becoming increasingly concerned with consumers using their locations as a showroom, then finding the best price on their mobile device and purchasing elsewhere.”

Only 11% of JiWire’s respondents said that they have used a mobile payments platform like Google Wallet, indicating that the market for the highly anticipated technology appears to still be relatively immature. Mobile couponing, on the other hand, is well on its way to becoming ubiquitous. According to the report, digital couponing, which includes mobile and web services, surpassed print for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“From a shopping perspective, tools that are enabling consumers to interact with brands, and brands with consumers, through a location-specific approach are seeing huge adoption on mobile,” said Staas about coupon’s and QR code redemption.

As mobile comparison-shopping becomes increasingly part of the in-store shopping experience, loyalty and rewards tools will become ever more important components for merchants to counteract – what Staas calls — the “showroom effect.”

Mobile commerce appears to be making in-roads into higher margin verticals like automotive as well. According to the report, 46% of respondents said that location-specific services like finding a dealer or checking the availability of a make or model would help most with their auto-buying decision.

The report also takes a deeper dive into consumer behavior by device type. In an interesting note, Android users surveyed were a little less than 50% more likely to search for the nearest location in response to a location-based ad or message than iOS or Blackberry users.

Although Staas says that the findings still require further research, he said that overall, android users showed slightly higher engagement with location-based services than the other operating systems.

“We’re starting to see is a lot of location-based apps being deployed on the android device, and I believe that’s just creating a lot more location-based media on that platform,” said Staas. “[The lift] on Android may also be because location is a little newer on the platform and so people may be engaging a heck of lot more due to the novelty the feature.”

Overall, Staas says that the use of location services — and importantly, the willingness of consumers to exchange location information for value-added services — has dramatically increased over the past few quarters. With over 80% of respondents preferring locally relevant advertising and 75% of consumers taking action in response to a location specific message, larger brands with local presences can no longer afford to ignore location-based services in mobile efforts.

“The role of location and mobile is becoming a really important part in terms of what people are looking for and how they want to use their mobile in facilitating their purchase,” said Staas.

As Staas points out, the growing role of mobile devices in the in-store shopping experience is potentially problematic for anyone who runs a brick-and-mortar business. Disruption in the in-store shopping experience however, is expanding the potential size of the loyalty and rewards market. As the emphasis shifts to real-time interaction with in-store consumers, a slew of second-generation loyalty tools, led by location-based startups like Foursquare, are set to capture a bigger chunk of local merchants’ marketing budget than ever before.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.