November 14, 2013, 2:17 PM

Mobile devices can help drive store sales

Two new studies show how consumers use mobile devices in bricks-and-mortar stores.

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The role of mobile commerce isn’t limited to purchasing merchandise on smartphones and tablets. M-commerce sites and apps play a part in helping shoppers in stores make buying decisions. Two new studies spell this out quite clearly.

30% of U.S. and 40% of U.K. shoppers with smartphones use their devices in stores to help with shopping, a new study from mobile commerce technology vendor Usablenet Inc. finds. Usablenet observed customers in stores in the U.S. and U.K., conducted in-person interviews with employees, and surveyed 1,500 respondents on their use of smartphones in stores for its research.

Consumers who use their smartphones while in a store use them primarily for messaging/e-mailing a friend (84% U.S., 90% U.K.), using social networks (64% U.S., 45% U.K.), comparing product prices (71% U.S., 66% U.K.), and checking customer reviews (51% U.S., 57% U.K.).

What’s more, the poll finds that many shoppers are open to receiving offers and deals on their mobile devices while shopping. 48% of U.S. and 46% of UK shoppers would be receptive to receiving personalized messages and promotions in a store. Retailers may want to consider mobile social tools such as in-store QR codes that consumers can scan to obtain online information and offers, and analytics that personalize special offers that a retailer can send to mobile phones to drive store sales, Usablenet says.

43% of consumers plan this holiday season to showroom via mobile—to examine merchandise in a physical store while comparing products and prices on a mobile device and make a purchase on mobile or later online, according to new research from Placed Insights that combines an October survey of nearly 15,000 smartphone owners with direct tracking of a group of smartphone owners’ locations and activities.

When asked about Black Friday, the busy in-store shopping day after Thanksgiving, 49% of shoppers say they plan to use their smartphones on that day to get coupons or discounts, 43% to compare prices online while in a store, 37% to get product information, 32% to access a retailer’s site or app, 30% to find a store, 28% to make a purchase, and 24% to make or reference a shopping list, finds Placed Insights, an analytics firm that specializes in offline shopping data.

Retailers may not have much to fear from consumers using smartphones in-store—in fact, they might want to foster this behavior by offering free in-store Wi-Fi, some mobile experts say.

In Q2 2013, 57% of smartphone users visited the site or app of the retailer whose store they were in, compared with 43% who consulted another retailer’s site or app, find web and mobile measurement firm comScore Inc. and retail research and consulting firm The Partnering Group.

“Retailers have an immediate opportunity to proactively encourage shoppers to use in-store Wi-Fi and engage with the retailer’s mobile-enabled web sites and apps,” says Peter Leech, managing director and retail practice leader at The Partnering Group, “It’s a big opportunity to capture those eyeballs before they seek an alternate source of product detail and pricing information on another retailer’s mobile offering.”

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