Study underlines evolving multichannel habits of smartphone users

 By Chris Lee

Customers are increasingly turning to online commerce for those item categories which they previously preferred shopping in store, according to a study unveiled in October 2013. The latest consumer study from eDigitalResearch and Portaltech Reply found that just 47 per cent of smartphone owners make a weekly in-store purchase, compared to 73 per cent in 2010 – a drop of 25 per cent.

This number has grown alongside the increasing adoption of smartphone devices, the report’s authors said. For example, in the summer of 2010, just 38 per cent of consumers owned a smartphone device compared to two thirds (62 per cent) today.

Smartphone growth leads evolution on online commerce

The growing number of smartphone handsets in the UK and the establishment online shopping appears to have had a “fundamental effect on the British high street”, the researchers argued. Whilst the majority of smartphone owners continue to visit retail stores to shop (just three per cent of respondents said that they do not), fewer Brits are doing so on a regular basis.

In June 2010, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of smartphone owners who purchased items in store were shopping on a weekly basis. Now, just three years later, this figure has fallen to under half and currently stands at under half – 47 per cent – representing a major shift in shopping and browsing behaviour.

“Mobile is fast proving itself to be the glue in any multichannel strategy. The major shift in shopping and browsing behaviour is proof that the customer journey to a purchase has changed and that mobile is significant in this journey,” said Mark Adams, partner at Portaltech Reply. “An increasing number of smartphone owners now like to browse in store and online, first researching their purchasing intentions. Does this mean they ultimately spend less? That is something retailers must explore to ensure their mobile strategy responds to this new behaviour. What we do know is that mobile is becoming more and more significant in the buying process and that customers who use smartphones make purchases more frequently.”

Adams added that how retailers choose to integrate mobile into the customer journey, particularly in store, is going to be crucial for their growth.

Product category traits differ

The research also highlighted the evolution of changing purchase behaviours across various product categories. Entertainment retailers are the symbol of the current online revolution, the report’s authors argue. According to the results, 35 per cent of respondents stated that have bought entertainment goods in store in 2013, compared to 60 per cent in 2010. At the same time, two thirds (62 per cent) stated that they have purchased entertainment products online, while one in ten (10 per cent) have used a mobile site and nine per cent a mobile app.

This shift has also been witnessed by those retailers specialising in categories that shoppers previously appeared to prefer buying in store, such as DIY and furniture. In 2010, 70 per cent of shoppers had made a DIY purchase in store, compared to 45 per cent in 2013. Similarly, a third (33 per cent) of respondents claimed to have purchased furniture items from the high street in the past 12 months, compared to 64 per cent three years ago.

“The way in which we conduct our shopping and browsing has changed. The introduction of first the internet and then mobile devices has fundamentally altered the retail industry. Now consumers are driving change and shopping when they want and how they want,” said Derek Eccleston, Commercial Director at eDigitalResearch. “This latest set of results shows that the popularity in online and mobile channels is only likely to continue. In order to survive this mobile and online revolution, retail stores need to be innovating, bringing their sometimes more popular digital channels in store to help enhance their customer experience and create a dynamic, exciting and vibrant environment that will keep customers returning through their doors”.

The study can be downloaded in full here:

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