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For the second year running, Houston heads the list of US cities with the most adept mobile shoppers, finds the IAB [pdf] in an analysis of Prosper Mobile Insights data. Using an index of 100 as a baseline, Houston indexes at 119.6, with Seattle-Tacoma second (113.8) and the San Francisco Bay Area third (112.4). Los Angeles (110.8) and New York City (107.7) round out the top 5, as data from “Mobile Shoppers: Growing Adoption Shifts Shopping Landscape” reveals.

To measure savviness, the researchers constructed an index on four key data points: ownership of a smart mobile device; propensity to be influenced by mobile coupons; ownership of a mobile retail application; and ownership of a mobile social media app (included, with a lower weighting, as a measure for sharing shopping and other information).

To earn its top ranking, Houston boasted a 77% smart mobile device (smartphone, tablet, or e-reader) adoption rate (#2 for this measure), a retail app ownership index of 131 (#2), a social media app ownership index of 106, and 22% of consumers who say they are influenced by mobile coupons (#1).

Top 10 Change From 2011; All See Growth in Device Adoption

The 2012 list reveals some significant changes from 2011. Seattle-Tacoma leapt to the #2 spot from #10 in 2011, and third-place San Francisco is new to the top 10. Boston is new as well, making its debut at #9, while New York and Atlanta each saw slight declines. Los Angeles and Chicago held steady compared to 2011. It’s worth noting that the study is limited to the top 15 designated market areas (DMAs) in the country.

Each of the top cities has seen a spike in smart mobile device ownership from 2011, led by San Francisco at 78% (up 12% points), followed by Houston (77%, up 10% points), New York (76%, up 10% points) and Los Angeles (75%, up 9% points). These numbers are significantly higher than the reported national average of 68% ownership in 2012.

QR Code App Ownership Tied to Mobile Shopping Savviness

Not surprisingly, there is some crossover between mobile shopping savvy cities and cities where ownership of QR and barcode apps is high. For example, the city that boasts the highest proportion (57%) of app downloaders with a QR code reader app – Seattle-Tacoma – comes in second on the list of mobile shopping savviness. Behind Seattle-Tacoma in QR code app ownership? Houston, with 54%.

Tellingly, these mobile shopping-savvy cities tend to index high for mobile-local search and display. February data from xAd revealed that the leading US city in terms of mobile-local search activity was New York, followed by Los Angeles. Houston ranked 8th for mobile-local search, but first for display, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago, all ranked by IAB as leading mobile shopping-savvy cities.

About The Data: The IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence leveraged the biannual Media Behaviors & Influence Survey by Prosper Mobile Insights of over 20,000 US consumers, conducted in June 2012, to yield data on mobile usage for each of the top 15 US DMAs.

For each data point, the IAB constructed an index for each DMA relative to the US national average. The IAB then combined them into a single metric, weighting device ownership most heavily, followed by coupon influence and retail app ownership. Social media apps were assigned a relatively lower weighting.

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