November 5, 2014, 3:54 PM

Three-quarters of consumers will use their mobile devices for holiday shopping

But fewer than one in 10 plan to use their mobile devices in stores to research products or buy.

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Mobile is becoming a big part of holiday shopping for many consumers; this year, 73% plan to use mobile devices for shopping activities—finding deals, comparing prices, researching products, accessing coupons, finding stores and buying directly from the device—according to research from Retale, a location-based mobile platform.

The study, analyzing responses from 1,000 consumers between Oct. 20 and 27, 2014, focuses on the use of mobile devices and overall spending trends. The study defines a mobile device as a smartphone or a tablet. For the mobile-specific questions, only consumers who owned a mobile device (73%) were included.

The largest share of consumers, 97%, plan on using their mobile devices to find deals, while 96% plan on comparing price and researching products on their mobile devices. Another 92% plan to access coupons, while 89% will use mobile devices to find stores. The least-common activity, according to the study, is actually buying directly from the device, with just 85% of consumers saying they plan on doing that. Consumers could select more than one activity in their responses.

Retale also asked consumers which of these activities they planned on doing while in physical stores or outside of stores. The most common activity out of store is buying directly from a mobile device, with 30% citing that. The activities conducted in store ranged in response rates from 8% to 14%, with consumers saying they would access coupons most often while in store.

Showrooming—when consumers research products in physical stores but buy online—is an oft-cited worry of bricks-and-mortar retailers. This study, however, found that only 8% of consumers research products online on mobile devices while in stores and only 9% buy directly from a mobile device while in stores. The report did not ask if consumers who research on their phones also buy.

However, 69% of consumers say they expect to use mobile devices to find deals while in and outside of stores. 67% say they will compare prices, 61% research products online, 62% access coupons, 51%  find store locations and 46% said buy products.

The study also asked consumers whether they prefer to shop on smartphones or tablets. 47% of respondents say they prefer using a smartphone for shopping activities and 32% prefer a tablet. The most-cited smartphone activity is finding store locations (61%), with researching products online (42%) the most-cited activity for tablet use. That was the only activity where tablets exceeded smartphones, and it was only by one percentage point.

Although not explained in the study, the smartphone preference could be affected by the number of consumers who own smartphones compared to tablets. The study did not ask the smartphone vs. tablet question only to consumers who owned both. 42% of adults in the U.S. own tablets, according to January 2014 research from Pew Research, while 58% have a smartphone.

In the battle between Apple and Android devices, Apple users are more likely to buy directly from the device. 89% of Apple users expect to buy directly from a device while 85% of Android users said that. However, Android owners were more likely than Apple owners to say they prefer  to shop on a smartphone than a tablet by a margin of 51% to 48%. Android and Apple owners accounted for 89% of consumers surveyed.

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