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Almost half of US adults (45%) agree that their mobile device is quickly becoming their most important shopping tool, marking a considerable jump from last year, when fewer than one-third (29%) felt that way. So finds GfK in its latest FutureBuy study [download page], which surveyed 1,000 adults in each of 35 countries.

The prevailing trends point to more use of mobile devices in retail – as evidenced by mobile’s growing share of e-commerce spending. Research data also indicates that multi-device shoppers now most commonly start and finish their e-commerce journeys on smartphones. At the same time, there are some roadblocks that have stalled the growth of mobile shopping, such as limitations of the smaller screen and slower page load speeds.

Currently smartphone shoppers continue to use their devices more for research than for actual transactions, according to GfK’s report. Thinking about the last time they used their smartphone to help them shop, respondents were most apt to say they used it to compare prices (36%), gather product information (30%) and check product reviews (30%) than to pay for products online (26%).

Mobile Payments Still Not Taking Off

The use of mobile devices to make payments in-store remains immature, per the study’s results. About 1 in 5 adults surveyed (19%) have used their mobile device for a payment in-store in the past 6 months, with that figure highest for those in the APAC region (29%) and lowest for those in Europe (12%). The US was slightly below the average, with 17% having made a mobile payment.

There also hasn’t been much shift in the frequency of mobile payments, with the majority (55%) continuing to do so 1-3 times per month.

Even so, a larger proportion of shoppers in the US this year see a greater role for mobile payments in their future. Some 28% agreed that they look forward to being able to pay for more and more transactions from their mobile device, up from 17% feeling that way last year.

Likewise, most adults in the US believe that mobile wallets will replace physical ones by 2025, according to recent research from Synchrony Financial. That study found security concerns to be the main hindrance to mobile wallet use, and that finding is echoed in the GfK results, which also found worries about personal information when using a mobile payment app to be a key barrier – and one that does not appear to be abating over time.

Other Survey Highlights

  • More than one-third (36%) of respondents in the US now agree that their social networks have become as important as their other information sources for them to make the best product choices. That’s up from 27% last year, a relative growth of one-third year-over-year.
  • Among those who last decided to shop in-store rather than online, the top reasons given for the decision were to see the product before buying it and to get the product sooner.
  • Among those who chose to shop online the last time, though, there was one clear reason: saving money.
  • Fewer than 1 in 4 shoppers in the US reported showrooming – the act of shopping in a store and then buying online. That figure is basically stable from last year.
  • Some 17% of respondents use click and collect regularly, relatively unchanged from last year’s results (16%).
  • About half (48%) of shoppers in the US can envision a future where traditional retail stores are not a big factor in how they shop, up from 37% last year.

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