April 25, 2016, 3:53 PM

Younger consumers turn increasingly to mobile devices for buying as well as browsing

A Bronto report shows that 64% of Americans are shopping more often on their smartphones.

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Unless their target demographic can remember when Gerald Ford was president, retailers and brands had best make it easy for consumers to research and buy on smartphones. That’s because a clear majority of consumers 44 and under view their web-connected phones as tools for shopping, according to a report from email marketing services provider Bronto Software.

For those middle-aged and older -- consumers who can remember Ford becoming president after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, online shopping via computers remains more common -- the Bronto survey shows.

Bronto’s data shows that 55% of all shoppers age 55-65 have used a laptop to buy something in the last year while 53% have bought on desktop computers. Shoppers 65 and older show a preference toward buying on desktop computers, with 62% using one of those to buy something compared to 54% who used a laptop.

Overall, online shopping via mobile devices is increasing—with half of smartphone owners saying they use them for shopping, and more are using mobile devices to purchases as well as browse, according to the report titled “The Influence of Multi-Device Ownership on E-Commerce.” The report is based on a January survey of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. who were able to access a smartphone, laptop computer, desktop computer, tablet or a wearable device. On average, U.S. shoppers who fit the criteria of this study have 2.9 devices that they use to connect to the Internet.

Bronto’s data on devices shows:

  • 79% of all shoppers surveyed report shopping more frequently using a wearable device than they did last year, though the number shopping this way remains relatively small.
  • 64% shop more frequently on a smartphone.
  • 60% shop more frequently on a tablet.

30% of the consumers surveyed say they shopped less frequently in stores in the past 12 months. The 18-24 age group and respondents with household income of $100,000 and higher report shopping less frequently in-store in the last 12 months. But 29% of respondents report shopping more frequently in physical stores in the past 12 months. Shoppers in the 25-34-year-old age range are the only category where shoppers are shopping more frequently in physical stores, with 43% saying they are versus 25% saying they’re shopping less frequently in stores.

“A majority of US consumers report that they are shopping more frequently on each device than they were a year ago, including 57% who say that their shopping on a laptop and on a desktop has increased. No device has a significant proportion of users whose shopping has decreased,” according to Bronto.

“Earlier research indicated a tendency to use mobile devices more for browsing, but this survey shows consumers seem comfortable purchasing via any device, mobile or not,” Bronto writes. “If the consumer is willing to use the device to shop, they are equally willing to use it for purchase.”

While the biggest percentage increase was in shopping via wearables, , very few consumers yet make purchases via devices like the Apple Watch and other web-connected wristwear. Bronto’s data finds that only 5% of shoppers surveyed have made a purchase from an e-retailer using a wearable device, with the highest percentage (12%) falling in the 25-34 age group. Older shoppers are more likely to buy on desktops, with 62% of shoppers 65 and older completing a purchase there versus 39% of 18-24 year olds.

Laptops and desktops still dominate purchasing overall. 63% of consumers say they buy from laptops and 49% say they do so from desktops. 49% of smartphone owners say they make purchases from their devices while 25% of tablet owners do so, Bronto says.

But there are signs of a shift toward mobile transactions, and retailers who want to drive conversions among younger consumers need to have a mobile presence, according to Bronto’s report. Here’s why:

  • In the 18-24 age group, 65% buy using their smartphones, while 63% of all shoppers age 25-34 and 58% of all 35-44-year-olds buy using those devices. That percentage drops significantly with age, with 31% of all shoppers e 45-54 buying on their smartphones and only 9% of shoppers 65 and older doing so.
  • By contrast, 35-44-year-olds lead the way on tablets, with 42% of shoppers in that age range buying on the devices compared with 39% of 25-34-year-olds and 29% of 18-24-year-olds. As with smartphones, the older the shopper, the steeper the decline. 20% of shoppers age 45-54 buy using their tablets, while 8% of shoppers age 65 and older do so.

Bronto, which was acquired by NetSuite Inc. last year, is the email marketing vendor for 43 retailers in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.

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