At this point, only 29% of online shoppers use their phone to help make shopping decisions, although 91% own cell phones. And of those who have used them, 72% call someone and ask for an opinion, while 40% say they photograph the product they are considering and email it to someone for feedback.
A much smaller group--24%, or about 7% of the total respondent pool--use the phone to go online and compare prices. And 15%, or 4% of the total, use their phone to search product reviews. ForeSee, which studies e-tailers and online customer satisfaction, expects those numbers to at least double in the year ahead.
In many ways, these mobile shoppers are no different than other shoppers. "They are not more loyal, more satisfied, or more likely to recommend top retailers' Web sites," the study notes, but they are 6% more likely to buy something in the store.
"Mobile apps offer a huge opportunity for retailers to encourage in-store purchases," the report says, adding that stores that initiate "phone a friend" efforts may benefit from encouraging consumers to make their cell phone part of the shopping experience.
"Going forward, retailers should encourage smartphone users to adopt retailer-generated mobile apps--not only to ask about a product or send a picture of a product to a friend, but to compare online prices, remember specs of something they were researching online, and identify the proper model or version of a wish list item."
The potential for mobile marketing is considered to be vast, because texting is so popular. Gartner, a technology research firm, estimates that about 2.3 trillion texts were sent in 2008 across major markets, with about 301 billion in the U.S. Gartner also projects that worldwide mobile advertising surpassed $2.7 billion in 2008, up from $1.7 billion in 2007.
Consumer resistance, however, is considerable. In a promotion for Fox's "American Idol," The New York Times reports that AT&T sent out text messages to a "significant number" of its 75 million customers, inviting viewers to tune in. While it may have boosted viewership, the text-spams also set off a steady stream of derogatory tweets on Twitter.
Some also complained on their blogs: "I pay my AT&T bill on time, every month, and what do I get in return (besides a flurry of dropped calls)? This lousy SMS spam shilling 'American Idol.'"