It has been known for some time that is much as 82 percent of smartphone users (InsightExpress, 2010) consult their iPhones and Android handsets in stores as part of on-site shopping research. Last year Google said that 70 percent of US smartphone owners did price research and looked up product reviews in stores. And this morning the Pew Internet Project released survey data echoing the earlier findings but offering some additional color and insight into mobile shopper behavior.
The Pew data, drawn from a survey during Q4 last year, offer numbers that are somewhat more “restrained” than the earlier figures from Google and InsightExpress, among others. This may in part be because the survey wasn’t limited to smartphone users.
Pew said that roughly one quarter of mobile phone owners looked up price or product-review information in stores. Nearly 40 percent called friends from a store for product advice. Here’s Pew’s discussion of the findings:
- 38 percent of cell owners used their phone to call a friend while they were in a store for advice about a purchase they were considering making
- 24 percent of cell owners used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store
- 25 percent of adult cell owners used their phones to look up the price of a product online while they were in a store, to see if they could get a better price somewhere else
Beyond the fact of in-store usage, the most interesting data from the Pew survey reveal what this group of mobile users did after consulting their phones or friends for advice and product information:
- 37 percent decided to not purchase the product at all
- 35 percent purchased the product at that store
- 19 percent purchased the product online
- 8 percent purchased the product at another store
In other words, well over 50 percent of these people decided against buying the product at that time. A minority (35 percent) bought the product then and there. However we don’t know whether the people who didn’t buy the product under consideration were ready to buy and were dissuaded by information they received via using their phones.
Traditional retailers have long been afraid of smartphone-based price and product research in stores. And the Pew findings would seem to underscore the challenges they face as more consumers adopt smartphones and use brick-and-mortar stores as “showrooms” for online retailers (especially Amazon).
This problem of “showrooming” was highlighted last week in an article in the Wall Street Journal. Best Buy is a retailer that has been hit particularly hard by this phenomenon. And absent the imposition of sales taxes on e-tailers, to “level the playing field” as it were, it would seem the only methods traditional stores have to combat the challenge of “showrooming” are great service and loyalty programs.
There’s not much they can do about smartphone adoption and use itself.
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