Mobile Buyers Prefer Online Sales To Retail Stores

Findings from a new study won’t do anything to ease the fears of brick-and-mortar retailers that are anxious over losing sales to mobile-empowered shoppers. The survey by consumer electronics site found that many smartphone owners are not only using their devices to comparison shop in stores, but end up buying products online elsewhere.

Two-thirds (66%) of smartphone users overall say they have checked out a product in-store, but then bought it from a different store online. Electronics is the category where this pattern plays out most often, with 58% browsing items in physical stores before buying them from a competitor’s Web site. About 40% of smartphone users did the same thing when shopping for shoes and apparel, respectively.

What’s more, among the 43% of those surveyed who have installed a retailer’s app, only 14% have used the app to actually buy something. A separate consumer survey released Thursday by mobile marketing firm Hipcricket found a similar proportion (13%) of smartphone users are visiting mobile retail sites to make purchases. People are mostly going to research prices (46%) and looking for coupons and offers (36%). 

That study also showed that 50% have checked a competitor’s mobile site while in another store. 

Manish Rathi, Retrevo's co-founder and vice president of marketing, said the company’s latest survey results suggests retailers’ need to retool their apps to lure users into making more purchases. “In today's market where many brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to stay competitive, retailers can't afford to merely serve as a showroom for Amazon," he said.

But if Amazon and other online outlets often have lower prices on items, doesn’t that just boil down to competing on price?

“While brick-and-mortar has to absolutely compete on price, that isn’t enough,” said Rathi. “The customer needs confidence if the product they are buying is right, and they increasingly look for Web-wide information to make that decision."

He pointed out that the study found that 53% of shoppers went to a store to buy electronics, but couldn’t decide what to buy. “So they walk out of the store, and then make that purchase online,” said Rathi. The biggest reason for leaving stores was not finding the product information they needed (30%), followed by feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices, and not getting enough help from sales staff. 

The Hipcricket study suggested there is still a lot of room for retailers and marketers to bolster their mobile presence. When asked whether any of their favorite brands market to them via their mobile phone, only 9% said "yes," essentially unchanged from 2010. At the same time, one-third said they would be interested in joining a mobile loyalty program for favorite brands. Only 12% do so now. 

Among other findings from the Hipcricket study, conducted in October via email and based on 607 participants:

-- 61% of smartphone users are at least somewhat likely to use their mobile device while shopping this holiday season.

-- 31% of all mobile phone users have interacted with a brand through their mobile device, up slightly from 2010 (30%), while 59% of smartphone users have done so.

-- 33% of cell phone users are interested in receiving offers based on time and location, such as a coupon delivered at 4:00 p.m. for $5 off a pizza at a local shop that night only. 

The results of the Retrevo study were drawn from an October survey of 1,000 people distributed across age, gender, income and location in the U.S.

1 comment about "Mobile Buyers Prefer Online Sales To Retail Stores".
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  1. Bob Phibbs from The Retail Doctor, October 24, 2011 at 1:47 p.m.

    While the data about people shopping mobile after visiting a brick and mortar retailer is coming from a site that is designed to accomodate that type of customer, electronics retailers in particular should heed the reasons why. As I wrote in my whitepaper, Manifesto: Bricks and Mortar Retailing at Risk in the Digital Age , stores that do not offer better help are bound to be pushed to unprofitability. Otherwise, the customers are overwhelmed with choice and leave for a device to make it easier for them.

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