Desktop Tops Mobile For Consumer Purchases, Tablets Gaining Popularity

When it comes to online shopping, people still use mobile phones and tablets mostly for research, preferring to make purchases on their computers, according to a new study.

The survey, commissioned by retail search advertising firm HookLogic and conducted by online research provider Toluna. While consumers are more apt to buy on the desktop than devices, the research drilled down to examine shopping patterns across platforms by category. Books was the product category people were most likely to buy on devices, with 39% saying they do so on tablets, and 32% on mobile phones.

Roughly a third of tablet users also buy in each of the following areas: groceries, apparel, footwear, office supplies, health and beauty products and video games. Besides books, the top categories on mobile phones were apparel and footwear, with about 30% buying in each vertical. 

On desktop and laptop computers, books were also the most commonly searched product, at 53%, followed by apparel (48%), office supplies (47%), footwear (43%) and health and beauty products (43%). The smaller screen sizes of handheld devices and concerns about security were cited as the main reasons people didn’t shop more on tablets and mobile phones.

With about a third of tablet users buying on their devices in several retail categories, that rate isn't that far from the proportion buying via the desktop.

Shopping ranked as only the seventh-most popular mobile activity among survey participants after talking, texting, browsing, playing games, Facebook and email.

Among other key findings, the study suggested younger people (18-35) tend to go to Google first to start their shopping research, while older demos are more likely to head to  Web sites of individual retailers, like Target and Best Buy. Overall, those are the two main ways consumers pursue online product research, followed by visiting manufacturing sites, reading professional reviews, and checking price-comparison sites.

Comparing online versus offline buying, groceries, people are more likely to purchase furniture and health and health and beauty products in stores, while electronics, video games, apparel and books are more likely bought online.

In terms of overall online shopping habits, the largest segment (42%) of consumers say they typically shop several times per month, with the same proportion spending less than $250 online annually. Almost 20% spend $250-$499 each year, and 15% spend $500-$749.

comScore on Tuesday issued its annual forecast for U.S. online holiday retail spending, projecting the total will grow 14% from last year to $48.1 billion. With mobile transactions (on smartphones and tablets) added in, that amount would increase to $55.2 billion.

The HookLogic study asked a representative sampling of 500 U.S. adults on Nov. 6 about their online and mobile shopping habits.

"Mobile Shopping" photo from Shutterstock.

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