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pew-in-store-comparison-shopping.jpg25% of adult cell phone owners used their devices to look up the price of a product online while they were in a store during this past holiday season, according to [pdf] a report released in January 2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. 38% of cell phone owners used their phone to call a friend while they were in a store for advice about a purchase they were considering making, and 24% used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store.

Overall, 52% of all adult cell phone owners used their phone for at least one of those reasons over the holiday shopping season, and one-third used their phone specifically for online information while inside a physical store.

Younger Owners More Apt to Check Reviews

Cell phone owners aged 18-29 were significantly more likely to use their phones for online product reviews than cell phone owners aged 50-64 (41% vs. 13%). In fact, cell phone owners aged 65 and older were especially unlikely to check online product reviews, with only 4% reporting doing so.

Meanwhile, urban (29%) and suburban (24%) were roughly twice as likely as rural cell owners (12%) to have used their phone to look up online reviews of a product they found in a store. Similarly, non-white owners were more likely than white owners (33% vs. 21%) to have done so.

Men Look Up Prices More

Data from “The Rise of In-Store Mobile Commerce” indicates that online price matching and looking up online reviews frequently accompany each other: overall, of the 33% of cell phone owners who used their phone in the 30 days preceding the survey to look up either product reviews or prices online, roughly half used their phone to engage in both of those activities. As a result, the same groups that used their phone to look up online product reviews, such as younger owners and non-whites, were generally more likely to have looked up online pricing information.

However, a significant gender disparity was found for cell phone owners looking up the price of a product online while in-store: whereas men were 23% more likely than women to look up product reviews online (27% vs. 22%), they were 55% more likely to look up pricing information online (31% vs. 20%).

Only 1 in 3 “Price Matchers” Complete Purchase In-Store

When asked what happened on the most recent occasion they used their phone to look up the price online of a product they found in a store, only 35% of respondents said they purchased the product at that store. 37% said they decided to not purchase the product at all, while 19% purchased the product online and 8% purchased the product at another store.

Recent data from Prosper Mobile Insights also shows that in-store search is costly for retailers: according to those results, smartphone and tablet users who use their devices to compare prices while shopping in a store are 33% more likely to purchase from another retailer than from the same retailer (40.6% vs. 30.6%). A further 25.6% of smartphone and tablet owners responding to the survey said they have compared prices while in-store and purchased from another retailer’s website using their device, while 23.1% said they have made a purchase from another retailer’s website using their laptop or desktop after leaving the store.

About the Data: The Pew results are based on a survey of 1,000 adults living in the continental US. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (600) and cell phone (400, including 184 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from January 5-8, 2012.

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