How Shoppers Use their Phones in Stores

The oft-repeated saying that people may forget their keys and wallets at home but not their phones is proving very true for in-store shoppers.

A majority (70%) of consumers have their smartphones with them in stores and many are actively using them, according to a new study that looks at in-store mobile behaviors.

As they browse in stores, many (30%) shoppers have those phones literally in their hands, according to the study by Usablenet.

Mobile shopping behavior is only increasing and evolving as more people get smartphones and start to use them more in the path to purchase.

For example, the study found that a large number (79%) of U.S. shoppers now use their phones for browsing and shopping on websites and apps. In the U.K., that number is a bit lower (64%), though the U.S. and U.K. behaviors found  in the study overall were somewhat similar.



Consumers are using their phones to gather information as they shop.

The Usablenet study found that while using a retailer’s website or app while in a store, consumers compared the store’s price to the online price and searched for an online coupon or customer reviews.

While the merchant may be focusing their efforts on interacting with the customer in the store, that customer may also be influenced in real time by someone outside of the store, since the top use by most customers who use their smartphones while in-store browsing is messaging or emailing a friend.

Here are the top in-store uses:

  • 84% -- Messaging/emailing a friend
  • 71% -- Compare product prices
  • 64% -- Using social networks
  • 51% -- Checking customer reviews

The study found that the majority (51%) of shoppers do product research on their smartphone, which is consistent with other studies.

As additional insights into the apps vs. mobile websites issue we wrote about yesterday (Apps vs. Mobile Websites & the Consumer Choice), the study found that more than a third (36%) of shoppers do not purchase on mobile retail sites but do purchase on apps.

Though I’m not sure the real issue here is the actual physical transaction as it is more about the influence on the purchase decisions throughout the Mobile Shopping Life Cycle.

And while many consumers will make purchase on tablets, most (78%) do not take them to the store.

People may ultimately make a purchase in the store, but there are many mobile influence points that help determine the product and which store it may come from.

6 comments about "How Shoppers Use their Phones in Stores".
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  1. Leslie Nolen from The Radial Group, November 7, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.

    Retailers still do a lousy job of showing potential buyers the information they actually want at POS and this data underscores that reality.

    Much of the mobile activity in-store is to get info that actually could be preemptively presented by the retailer on/at/near the shelf containing the product.

    Granted, retailers can't tell you what your BFF thinks about Product X - but pretty much everything else.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, November 7, 2013 at 2:09 p.m.

    These figures are bizarre. Virtually everyone I see using a phone in store, in the UK, is using it to talk to people. Some are messaging or using social networks, because under-30s are online all the time. But I've very rarely seen anyone do research in store and usually that has been on a static computer, such as those provided by Marks and Spencer, not on a mobile. Shame there's no link to the study.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 7, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.

    Good point, Leslie, still a lot of work to be done here.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 7, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.

    Numerous studies point ot the research-in-store activity happening, not just this one. And here's a link where you can download the data, after you fill out their short form:

  5. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., November 7, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.

    It appears that this research suffers from the number one mistake that non-researchers make...confusing incidence for market share. My blog on this subject has been shared over 900 times.
    However, even though not as widely distributed as this research would have us believe, the future IS here (thanks William Gibson). The future of shopping in a digital world can be found here

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 7, 2013 at 5:48 p.m.

    Thanks for your comments, Joel, though this study does focus on incidence rather than market share, which is a very good point you raise.

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