Retailers and brands are pouring billions of dollars into social strategies designed to influence the way shoppers interact with merchandise inside physical stores, but a new study by the in-store beacon platform inMarket shows that marketers focused too sharply on social media apps may be missing the mark.
Although social media apps are typically the top category for general mobile usage, inMarket’s new study found that just 4% of consumers are using social apps inside stores.
“It tells me that shoppers are focused on the task-at-hand, and that some of the most popular social/mobile advertising approaches, while useful outside of the store, might be missing the mark when it really counts,” says Dave Heinzinger, VP of communications at inMarket.
Still, inMarket found that consumers are using their smartphones inside physical stores at incredible rates. According to the study, which examined a sample of 2,500 shoppers from inMarket’s platform audience of 50 million monthly active users and non-platform mobile users in stores, 55% of consumers use their smartphones in-store for “shopping activities,” which include using shopping lists, looking at reviews and recipes, doing product research with price comparison apps, utilizing loyalty or rewards apps, and texting or calling someone about what to purchase.
“With this study, we’re observing people who are treating their devices like a personal assistant,” Heinzinger says. “It’s the shopper dashboard, with all the info they need in one place.”
Among those shoppers who were using their mobile devices to help make purchasing decisions in inMarket’s study, 28% actively looked at their shopping lists and 14% called or texted someone with questions about what to buy.
“We also found that of the people surveyed, 54% were female and 46% were male, with 66% of the mobile users being over the age of 35+. Gen X is no stranger to the benefits of in-store mobile,” Heinzinger says.
Behind shopping activities, the study found that the second highest use case of mobile in-store was messaging unrelated to shopping. Fourteen percent of consumers in inMarket’s study used SMS and apps while shopping in-store, not including any social media platforms.
While interest in mobile gaming and podcasts has grown exponentially in recent years, inMarket found that they accounted for just 1% of “mobile moments” while consumers shopped in-store.
What does this all add up to for marketers? For one thing, Heinzinger says its clear that physical stores are a unique environment, and consumers appear most interested in the task at hand while they’re shopping. Rather than throwing money blindly at mobile marketing with the hope of achieving a positive ROI, brands and retailers would be smarter to use relevant data to better understand the role that various apps and services have in their customers’ in-store routines.
“It’s been really exciting to watch the growth of mobile as part of the in-store experience and the path to purchase over the past six-plus years,” Heinzinger says. “We’re in the midst of the largest consumer behavior shift since the internet, and we’ve gotten so much more sophisticated in experience, targeting, timing and measurement.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.