Data Dive: Mobile’s Influence This Holiday Season (Update)

November 7, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Digital | Email | Men | Mobile Phone | Promotions, Coupons & Co-op | Retail & E-Commerce | Women | Youth & Gen X

The holiday season is picking up steam, and studies continue to point to a significant role for mobile devices in the shopping process. Anywhere between half and four-fifths of smartphone owners plan to use their devices as shopping tools, depending on the survey, with the most common activities being to compare prices and find locations. The research also finds that consumers will put their devices to work in-store in a variety of ways.

It’s certainly not a surprise that consumers will be using their mobile devices as shopping companions this holiday season, as multiple studies have pointed to their growing role in retail throughout the year (here’s one such study on mobile’s influence on in-store sales). The latest research looks to quantify how common mobile shopping will be, and what key activities shoppers will perform. According to a recent Google and Ipsos survey [download page], 4 in 5 mobile device owners (smartphone or tablet owners in this case) will use their devices to assist them in their holiday shopping. Among those who use a smartphone regularly, 45% will compare prices, 44% will find a nearby store based on their location, 39% will look for coupons, and 34% will read reviews.

A recent survey from Deloitte comes to a similar conclusion. Half of those survey respondents own smartphones, and more than two-thirds of those device owners intend to use them as shopping tools. The most common ways these consumers will use their devices will be to find store locations (62%) and to check or compare prices (58%).

And the latest data, from Prosper Mobile Insights [download page] indicates that 55.3% of smartphone and tablet owners will use their device for holiday shopping, with more than 3 in 5 of those most likely to put their device to use as a mobile mall. That aligns with PriceGrabber research finding that two-thirds of mobile shoppers plan to make purchases from their device this season.

How Will Consumers Leverage Mobile Devices In-Store?

Of course, mobile use can be both a blessing and a curse for retailers. An Accenture online survey finds that 56% of consumers report being likely to “showroom” this holiday season. The study defines showrooming as viewing a product in-store and then afterwards searching online for the best price and purchasing online. That doesn’t necessarily have to involve a mobile device (which is commonly what showrooming refers to). But, the Accenture survey also finds that among likely showroomers, 27% say they would likely make their purchase online using their smartphone or tablet while they are still out shopping.

The Prosper Mobile Insights study finds that smartphone and tablet use in-store is primarily driven by price considerations. When asked which activities they plan to perform on their devices while shopping in-store, 66% of “mobile shoppers” said they would compare prices with another physical store, and 59.7% said they would compare prices with an online retailer. Other planned activities include reading product reviews to decide between products (48.1%), checking in for a discount (40.3%), scanning a QR code to get more information about a product (39.9%), and requesting a price match (37.9%).

Who is most likely to bring their mobile device in-store to help them with research and purchases? According to a Burst Media study [pdf], that would be 18-34-year-old men, 52.7% of whom plan to do so. That compares to 45.7% of women of that age. Men aged 35-54 are also more likely than their female counterparts to use their devices in-store (39.2% vs. 32.3%), and the same trend is evident among those aged 55 and older (28.5% vs. 16.9%).

Mobiles To Be Used As Cost-Saving Tools

Showrooming isn’t the only way that mobile owners intend to save money using their devices, although it is the most common. PriceGrabber asked mobile shoppers how they plan to use their devices to save money during the holidays, finding that 70% plan to check prices online before making an offline purchase, and 66% plan to make purchases from their mobile. But there are other ways consumers will use their devices, too: 52% plan to check retailer emails containing coupons and discounts while shopping in-store; 46% will use comparison shopping applications and bar code scanners to save money; 41% will have retailer coupons texted to them; 40% will check store inventory before shopping in-store; and 33% plan to download shopping apps to earn cash, rewards, and points.

Smartphone Users Projected to Spend More on Gifts

So what might all this cost-saving behavior mean for overall retail sales? On the showrooming side, mobile’s influence might not have a substantial effect – after all, presumably, these shoppers will be buying the same product, just at some degree of discount online. (It is, of course, good news for e-commerce companies, who are optimistic about holiday sales volume, and expect mobile to account for 6% of that volume, according to [pdf] Chase Paymentech. Of note, consumers also expect to make 6% of their purchases from a mobile device, according to PriceGrabber.) But given the propensity for mobile owners to buy relatively smaller-value items on their devices (a Litle & Co. study puts the mobile “sweet spot” for purchases at $20-$100, though PriceGrabber data is a little less clear on the matter), is a greater reliance on mobile devices for purchases a good thing for retail sales? Deloitte, at least, says yes. Its survey results find that smartphone owners will spend an average of $498 on gifts this year, 52% more than non-owners ($328).

So what will smartphone and tablet owners actually buy on their devices? Prosper Mobile Insights finds that electronics gifts will be the most researched (69.1%) and purchased (41.2%) items, with many also planning to buy books, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and video games (39%) and clothing and accessories (36.7%). While some will research higher-value items such as appliances (16.6%) and home decor (22.4%), few intend to actually buy them using their devices (7.2% and 12.7%, respectively).

Mobile Just One in a Series of Touchpoints

Measuring mobile’s influence isn’t just about looking at it as a discrete shopping channel, of course. As the Google and Ipsos study demonstrates, mobile devices are just a part of an increasingly integrated cross-channel experience. That experience means that half of consumers will research online and then buy in-store, 44% will research and buy online, about one-third will research online, visit the store, and then buy again online, and slightly less than 1 in 5 will visit a store first before buying online (a much smaller figure than found by Accenture.)

Among those who will use more than one device to shop for a gift, 85% will start on one and finish on another. Additionally, among those planning to use a smartphone or a tablet, 4 in 5 will use devices simultaneously to help them shop, including 55% who will put their smartphone to use at the same time as their computer.

Overall, owners of multiple connected devices expect to do 65% of their online shopping on a computer, 16% on a smartphone, 10% on a tablet, and 8% from other connected devices.

Retailers Make Investments to Keep Pace

It looks like retailers are making the necessary adjustments to keep up with consumers’ cross-channel habits. Recent survey results from Bronto and RSR Research indicate that since the close of holiday 2011, half of the retailers surveyed have invested in a mobile application. That’s good news, considering the survey data from PriceGrabber showing that one-third of mobile shoppers will download new shopping apps for the holiday season.

Meanwhile, 43% of the Bronto and RSR Research survey respondents have spent money optimizing their mobile site, and 46% have made investments in a new e-commerce platform. In fact, about 1 in 5 say they’ll be devoting more than 50% of their online marketing budgets this season to mobile efforts alone. Similarly, pre-holiday study results from show that 55% of retailers have invested in mobile optimize sites to foster revenue growth, and about 1 in 3 will use mobile paid search campaigns and mobile email optimization to try to reach customers.

About the Data: Google commissioned Ipsos OTX, an independent market research firm, to gain a better understanding of consumers’ shopping intentions for the upcoming 2012 Holiday Season. Interviews were conducted via an online quantitative survey from 8/20/12 ”“ 8/27/12, yielding a total sample of 1,500 holiday shoppers.

The Deloitte data is based on a survey of more than 5,000 consumers, conducted between September 14 and 24.

The Prosper Mobile Insights data is based on a survey of 333 smartphone and tablet users conducted October 24-29, 2012.

Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 500 US consumers in October 2012.

The Burst Media data is based on a survey conducted in the first half of October 2012, among more than 1,200 US online adults aged 18 and older.

The inaugural Chase Paymentech eHoliday Shopping Monitor was an online poll conducted between September 18 and September 25, 2012 among 178 companies generating e-commerce sales this holiday season. Companies were drawn from Chase Paymentech’s customer base that collectively account for half of all global Internet transactions. The survey was administered by Braun Research, Inc.

The Litle & Co. data is based on a survey of 500 shoppers (304 of whom own smartphones), conducted in September 2012.

Conducted from Sept. 14 to Sept. 27, 2012, the PriceGrabber survey includes responses from 2,469 US online shopping consumers.

The Bronto data is based on a recent retail survey of 179 respondents, the majority of which report annual revenues from $51-$999 million, conducted by Retail Systems Research (RSR) late this summer.


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