October 26, 2011, 4:42 PM

Many consumers are looking in stores but buying online, survey finds

Smartphones are driving shoppers from bricks to clicks.

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Consumers shopping in stores with smartphones in hand are beginning to defect from those stores to online retailers, finds a new survey from consumer electronics shopping and review site Retrevo.com. This goes for store merchants across product categories.

58% of smartphone owners in the survey have checked out electronics in a store but then bought a product elsewhere online. Here are comparable statistics for other product categories: 41% for shoes, 39% for apparel, 23% for appliances, 22% for sporting gear, and 19% for home and garden.

“In today’s market, where many bricks-and-mortar retailers are trying to stay competitive, retailers can’t afford to merely serve as a showroom for Amazon,” says Manish Rathi, Retrevo.com co-founder and vice president of marketing. And that’s an increasing threat as more consumers own smartphones. The Nielsen Co. says half of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones by year’s end.

Smart shoppers are tapping away on their smartphones and tablets at home and in stores to help them decide what to buy and where to find the best price: More than half of smartphone owners indicated they have used a mobile device in a store to help them buy something, Retrevo.com says.

The survey also found that 42% of smartphone owners have used a mobile device in-store to check prices, 29% to read a review or look up product specifications, and 25% to get a coupon.

The Retrevo Pulse Report is an ongoing study of technology industry trends. The data for this report came from a study of online individuals in October 2011. The sample size was more than 1,000 consumers across gender, age, income and location in the United States.

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