November 7, 2013, 4:14 PM

Revealing the smartphone’s role in the path to purchase

New research from Google uncovers how shoppers use smartphones to research and buy.

Lead Photo

When it comes to shopping via a smartphone, new research finds consumers partake in the window variety much more than the purchasing variety.

Google Inc. recently commissioned Nielsen to conduct a study of 950 smartphone users to see how smartphones play a role in shopping. The consumers responded to a survey based on their smartphone-related research within several product categories. Additionally, Nielsen observed panelists’ mobile usage by analyzing their smartphone data. All respondents were 18 or older and had made a purchase in a store, via a PC or via a mobile device in the past 30 days.

The survey found that many items researched on smartphones were not purchased on those devices.  Of those who  researched on their phones and then made purchases, 82% at least in some cases purchased in-store, 45% bought online (desktop/tablet) and 17% purchased via a mobile phone, the research reveals.

While shoppers didn’t buy much, they did often research on smartphones, spending on average about 15 hours per week researching purchases on mobile sites and apps. The study also uncovered that search is key when it comes to smartphone shopping activities. 48% of consumers in the study started smartphone shopping-related research using search engines. And 74% used a mobile search engine at some point before purchasing, the study reveals. Additionally, 71% used a store locator on their smartphone to find a nearby store.

Smartphone owners using their devices for shopping-related activities tend to be on a mission to make a purchase soon, the research finds. 55% of consumers want to purchase within an hour and 83% within a day, the research finds. 93% of those who used smartphones for research in the past 30 days made a purchase in that timeframe as well, the research finds.

“With smartphone penetration in the U.S. nearly doubling year-over-year from 31% to 56%, it’s clear that the mobile-savvy shopper is here to stay,” Bao Lam, performance ads product marketing manager for Google writes in a blog post on the findings. “Advertisers can use these insights to better reach the mobile consumer and drive more business.”

Google offers the following tips to mobile marketers based on its findings:

  • Tailor search ads for mobile shoppers: As search is the most common starting point for mobile research, retailers should ensure their mobile ads are tailored for smartphones so that they render properly on a  smartphone.
  • Use location extensions in mobile ads: Location extensions enable businesses to attach their addresses to their ads, so shoppers can see how close they are to a business or store. They also provide shoppers with maps and directions on how to get to a business from their current location.
  • Facilitate faster checkout: Showing in-stock inventory in Google product listing ads, enabling click-to-call, and implementing Google’s Google Wallet, which stores consumers’ payment information so shoppers can check out quickly, are all ways to help shoppers find what they need and purchase quickly, Google says.


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