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Consumers calling on smartphones for in-store purchasing decisions

NEW YORK — A growing number of shoppers are using their smartphones to help them make in-store purchases. According to new Deloitte research, smartphones currently influence 5.1% of annual retail store sales, translating into $159 billion in forecasted sales for 2012, according to new Deloitte research. 

Deloitte arrived at its 5.1% figure by examining in-store sales driven by consumers' store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or other mobile application use.

While that figure may not be very high, Deloitte anticipates mobile's influence, based on consumers' smartphone use, will grow to represent 19% of total store sales by 2016, amounting to $689 billion in mobile-influenced sales.  By comparison, direct mobile commerce sales will pass the $30 billion mark by that time, according to industry estimates.

"Mobile devices' influence on retail store sales has passed the rate at which consumers purchase through their devices today," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader. "Consumers' store-related mobile activities are contributing to – not taking away from – in-store sales, and our research indicates that smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.  This means that mobile is an important tool for retailers to incrementally drive traditional in-store sales, strengthening the relationship between retailer and consumer to increase engagement and loyalty."

Some findings from the study include:

  • Nearly half (48%) of smartphone owners surveyed say their phones have influenced their decision to purchase an item in a store, and the study shows that consumers' smartphone use tends to be highest at or near the point of purchase.  Based on Deloitte's survey, more than 6 out of 10 (61%) of smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so while shopping at the store, and more than half (52%) reach for their phones on the way to the store.

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  • Smartphone-toting consumers appear more likely to make a purchase than those who do not own one or do not use it to assist in-store shopping.  When asked about their most recent shopping trip, nearly three-quarters (72%) of smartphone owners surveyed indicated they made a purchase on that day, compared with 63% of respondents who did not use a phone.  Smartphone users were also more likely to eventually make a purchase: among those who did not buy anything on their last trip, 59% of those who used a smartphone eventually made a purchase, compared to only 22% of those who did not use one. 

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  • Mobile applications appear to be the inroads to consumer engagement.  Nearly four out of 10 (37%) smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping application, and more than one-third (34%) used a retailer's mobile application.

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  • As consumers buy smartphones, they are quick to tap their devices for shopping assistance, with smartphone use for store-related shopping increasing 40% after the first six months of ownership, according to Deloitte's survey.  Once these consumers are on board, they consistently use their phones for 50% to 60% of their store shopping trips, depending on the store category.

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between March 20 and 30. The survey polled a national sample of 1,041 random consumers and then augmented this sample with additional smartphone owners to reach a sample of 1,557 smartphone owners. The sample of smartphone owners has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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