June 15, 2011, 5:22 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: More mobile devices means more shopping, a survey finds

And laziness has emerged as a driving force behind mobile commerce.

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The more a consumer invests in mobile technology, the more likely he is to engage in mobile commerce. And men are more likely than women to purchase merchandise via their smartphones or tablet computers. Those are among the findings of a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults revealed in a presentation entitled “An Up-to-the-Minute Look at How Consumers are Using Their Mobile Devices” at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011.

38% of the consumers surveyed own a smartphone; 41% of them have made a purchase via the device. 3% own a tablet computer, such as Apple Inc.’s iPad; 65% of them have bought merchandise via their tablet. And 5% own both a smartphone and a tablet; 85% of them have engaged in m-commerce. 55% of respondents do not own a smartphone or a tablet.

“It is a very clear trend: People are shopping using their mobile devices,” said Jeff McKenna, senior consultant at research and consulting firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, which conducted the survey last month.

Mobile technology is often associated with young men, or “gearheads,” McKenna said, but “women are in the game.” 45% of both men and women own a smartphone, a tablet or both. But 52% of men have used a mobile device to make a purchase compared with 43% of women, the survey finds.

Consumers purchase products from across the spectrum via their smartphones; in fact, m-commerce purchases in many ways reflect their e-commerce counterparts, McKenna said. 17% of consumers with smartphones made travel reservations or purchased travel services; 16% bought apparel; 15% food and beverages; 11% toys and games; 11% electronics; 8% home goods; 4% sporting goods; 4% books; 3% jewelry; and 8% other products.

Chadwick Martin Bailey asked some survey respondents to describe why they used their mobile devices to purchase goods. Many cited time sensitivity and being on the go. “I was in a place where I did not have a desktop or a laptop,” said one respondent. Another respondent said, “The auction was going to close while I was in the car.”

But while the on-the-go nature of mobile commerce is well understood, there’s another, relatively unheralded reason that people use their smartphones and tablets to buy merchandise, McKenna said: laziness. The general idea among consumers is why bother going to the desktop computer or dragging out and booting up the laptop when the smartphone is right in one’s pocket? “I was sitting on the couch watching TV and didn’t want to get up,” explained one survey respondent. Another respondent said, “I used my phone since it was right beside me at the time.” Still another said, “I was comfortable on the couch and my tablet was right there.”

However, consumers identified shortcomings in m-commerce. Some respondents said the screen is smaller and more difficult to read, and that it is easy to make typing errors on the small digital keyboard.

But none of that stops consumers from engaging in mobile shopping. In the survey, consumers were asked, “Which is more important to you, larger screen size or being able to purchase when it is more convenient for you?” McKenna said the clear majority sided with convenience.

“Convenience trumps little problems like typing,” McKenna said. “Those retailers that find ways to make it easier for people to get through such issues will have a leg up.”

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