January 30, 2012, 11:39 AM

Mobile shoppers may reject the store and buy online

Nearly one in five mobile shoppers bought online during the holidays.

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It’s a sight that some retailers are wary of: a consumer using her mobile phone in a store to check competing prices and product availability. Bricks-and-mortar retailers have cause to be wary, as 19% of adults bought a product online after searching for it in a store using their cell phones.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project asked 1,000 U.S. adults in the 30 days before and after Christmas what they did after they used their cell phones inside stores. Approximately 35% of all respondents purchased that product in the store, with 19% choosing to buy the product from an online retailer. 8% bought the product at another store. 37% chose not to make a purchase at all.

But before they made a decision about a purchase, 38% of consumers called a friend for advice, followed by 25% who looked on prices online and 24% who looked up product reviews while inside a store.

“These findings show that the growing availability of smartphones and other mobile devices has dramatically changed the shopping experience,” says Aaron W. Smith, a Pew senior research specialist. “Consumers are frequently using their phones to make sure they get the most highly-rated product at the best price, and in many cases they are willing to go elsewhere or delay their purchase until they find the right combination of value and quality.”

Younger consumers are more likely to use their mobile phones to research a product while in a store or to call a friend, the survey found. 63% of those between 18 and 29 years old did so as did 59% of those between 30 and 49 years old. As age increased, the percentage decreased. Only 36% of those between 50 and 64 and 24% of those older than 65 used their mobile phones in stores.

Similarly, younger consumers were more likely to use their mobile phones to check competing prices. 38% of those between 18 and 29 checked prices inside stores as did 35% of those between 30 and 49. Only 16% of consumers between 50 and 64 and 3% of those over 65 checked prices.

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