The vast majority of smartphone owners use their devices to shop, but they’re more likely to turn to retailers’ mobile Web sites than their apps. Despite the rise of so-called showrooming, people are still more likely to shop using smartphones at home than in stores.
Those are among the key findings of a new NPD Group study that found three-quarters of smartphone owners are using their handsets as part of their overall shopping experience. Within that population, 71% are going to retailer sites such as Bestbuy.com, Amazon.com and Target.co, while only 57% are using those retailers’ apps to shop.
Eddie Hold, vice president of NPD’s Connected Intelligence service, noted that retail apps are not typically part of consumers’ day-to-day shopping habits, so they tend to be used less frequently. “How often do you go into a Best Buy and buy a TV?” he said. Three months after downloading a retailer’s app, 75% of users don’t even use it once a month, according to the study.
“Right now, engagement is low, meaning the app is clearly an experiment that is quickly dropped by most consumers,” said Hold. Furthermore, while virtually all (94%) smartphone users shop via their smartphones while at home, only about a third (32%) do so in physical stores. Hold said that indicates people are using smartphones as an alternative device for online shopping rather than as a showrooming tool.
“The reality is, if you have a consumer in your retail store, you still have the home field advantage,” said Hold, adding that prior to the spread of smartphones, some may have been content simply to shop at home from their PC.
But he suggested that retailers can still do more to make their apps a useful complement to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores by adding features like in-store mapping, integrated shopping lists and scan-and-go buying to encourage more regular app use. Even so, Hold expects consumers to increasingly embrace mobile shopping in the upcoming holiday season.
A separate study by Compuware released earlier this week found almost half (49%) of smartphone and tablet users plan to use their devices to research and buy gifts; 36% plan to do more mobile shopping this year than last.
The NPD study was based on a combination of on-device metering and consumer panel data. The research firm’s SmartMeter uses a three-month rolling panel to track usage by 4,500 people, while the consumer survey polled 1,500 smartphone users ages 18 and older in September 2013.
Multi-channel retailers need to be very careful before concluding that the average shopper prefers to use a mobile web site rather than an app to visit and buy online. comScore data show that fully 80% of the time spent on the Internet by consumers using a smartphone is via an app rather than a browser. This is reflected in visitation to pure play online retailers such as Amazon and eBay. However, in the case of multi-channel retailers, only about 25% of the mobile time spent on their sites is via an app. It could be that multi-channel retailers simply don't have appealing apps!