Understanding smartphone use in stores: Shoppers who use mobile more, spend more in store

Smartphones are our constant shopping companions – helping us research, compare, and even purchase products online and in stores. We’ve already seen that smartphones are key to pre-purchase activities. With 84% of mobile shoppers now using their phones to help with shopping in physical stores, smartphones are now as commonplace in stores as shopping carts and cash registers. In “Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices”, with the help of M.A.R.C. Research and the Google Shopper Council, we set out to understand mobile’s role in stores and how marketers can take advantage. We found that across the board, shoppers who use mobile more actually spend more in store, so marketers should face the mobile in-store challenge head on and own the digital shelf.

Smartphones are transforming the retail experience

Now that consumers have product details, price comparisons and reviews available instantly at their fingertips, shoppers complement what they’re seeing on store shelves with what they can find on the web. This behavior isn’t just limited to high consideration purchases like appliances and electronics. In every industry we looked at, including household items, apparel, and pet care, more than 70% of smartphone shoppers use their phones in store to help with shopping. In fact, two-thirds of baby product shoppers compare prices on their phones in-store.

So what are shoppers using their smartphones for in stores? The research showed that phones were primarily used for:
  • Price comparison (53%)
  • Finding offers and promotions (39%)
  • Finding locations of other stores (36%)
  • Finding hours (35%)

Shoppers who use mobile more, spend more in store
While many businesses might assume that smartphone use in store drives shoppers to seek better prices elsewhere and order online, we found that the opposite was true. We compared the in-store purchases of moderate and frequent smartphone users and found that basket sizes of frequent mobile shoppers were 25-50% higher. For instance, while the average appliance smartphone shoppers spends $250 per shopping trip, frequent smartphone shoppers spend $350. Marketers shouldn’t shy away from the showrooming challenge, and should instead, meet it head on.

Search is often the starting point for in-store mobile activity
While many marketers assume that smartphone shoppers use shopping apps or navigate directly to brand and retail websites while in a store, we found that 82% of smartphone shoppers use mobile search to help make purchase decisions. This represents a critical moment where businesses can win or lose customers – whether they’re navigating the aisle in your store or your competitor’s. Mobile shoppers are looking for information or savings in the key decision moments, so businesses should own the digital shelf by making sure they’re present when customers are searching and that relevant information is easy to find.

Understanding how mobile changes the retail game
For businesses, this new mobile behavior doesn’t just impact your marketing efforts, it also has clear implications for the entire business – from the products you stock on shelves to the way you train employees. For instance, 1 in 3 smartphone shoppers would rather find information using their smartphone than ask a store employee. In categories like electronics and appliances, this behavior occurs for close to 50% of smartphone shoppers.

However, understanding and embracing this new retail behavior can open up new opportunities for brands to connect with customers in key consideration moments. Some stores promote their expanded inventory online or implement a price match guarantee to retain savings-hungry shoppers. Others are putting smartphones to use with QR codes that share more information about products, or apps with store maps and real-time inventory. Whatever tactics marketers choose, it’s clear that smartphones are changing the in-store experience, and that winning the key decision moments at the physical shelves means owning the digital shelves too.

Check out the full research report to learn more or register now for a webinar on Thursday, May 16 where we’ll discuss the research and how businesses can take advantage of mobile use in stores.

Posted by: Adam Grunewald, Product Marketing Manager, Mobile Ads

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