January 12, 2012, 12:52 PM

Mobile holiday shopping jumps sharply in the U.K.

30% of shoppers used their phones for shopping this year, versus 10% in 2010.

Lead Photo

Source: Intersperience

The just-concluded holiday season registered a dramatic increase in U.K. consumers using mobile phones for shopping. 30% of consumers used their phones in some way as part of their holiday shopping, versus only 10% who said so last year, according to market research firm Intersperience, which conducted both surveys.

“What took me by surprise was how rapidly mobile has changed the way quite a sizable chunk of the U.K. population was shopping,” says Paul Hudson, Intersperience CEO.

Mobile’s biggest impact is in influencing purchases, rather than as a means for making purchases, Hudson says. While only 6% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed made a purchase with a mobile phone, up from 4% last year, nearly a third of consumers used their phones in some way in connection with holiday shopping.

For example, 13% used their phones to get gift ideas vs. 8% a year earlier, 19% used phones to compare prices vs. 5% and 12% used phones to compare products, up from 5%. While shoppers are taking to mobile for these research purposes, Hudson says consumers have made clear in previous surveys that they are hesitant to make purchases on their phones, for security and other reasons. “The influence of mobile is more likely in the short term to be in influencing the way we shop than in the percentage of transactions,” he says.

The survey also reveals that 20% of U.K. consumers turned to their phones for information while shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store. 11% say they looked for the same product from another retailer, 11% compared prices with another retailer, 10% looked at another retailer’s web site seeking the best deal, and 7% said that—while in a retail store—they used their phone to buy from a competitor’s e-commerce site.

Some U.S. consumers used mobile phones in much the same way this holiday season, according to a separate survey released today by market research firm NPD Group. That survey shows 4% of men and 5% of women made a purchase on a mobile phone during the holiday season, 7% of men and 5% of women read product reviews on a phone while in a store, 12% of men and 13% of women researched a product by phone and 10% of both men and women used their phones to locate a retailer. NPD did not conduct this survey in 2010, and so could not report on growth in mobile shopping.

The Intersperience study, conducted from Dec. 26-Jan. 5, also asked consumers whether they used their mobile phones at any time during the holiday season to do the following. Here are their responses:

  • Look for reviews on products, 19%
  • Check competitor prices, 19%
  • Seek product details/specifications, 13%
  • Search for product ratings, 13%
  • Find recommendations, 8%
  • Buy on the mobile Internet, 6%
  • Find comments from people I know, 6%
  • None of the above, 70%

Respondents could select more than one answer.

Hudson says the increased use of mobile phones for shopping contributed to the growth in online sales in the U.K. during the recent holiday season. The Intersperience survey shows the typical U.K. consumers increased online shopping 15% from 163 to 188 pounds (US$288), while the average spend in stores declined 7% to 166 pounds.

However, the proportion of U.K. consumers who shopped online declined from 81% in 2010 to 72% in 2011. Bad weather during the 2010 holiday season caused delivery delays for one in five U.K. online shoppers that year, leading some consumers to shop in stores in 2011 to make sure they had their gifts by Christmas, Hudson says.

While the weather was not a problem in 2011, Hudson says nearly one in 10 consumers said gifts ordered online did not arrive in time for Christmas. This year it was stock shortages at some e-retailers that accounted for the late deliveries, Hudson says. “We’ve been told by a lot of retailers and delivery companies that they were taken by surprise with the jump in online spending,” Hudson says. “I don’t think they’ve been ready for the demand.”

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