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Consumers Choose Digital for Product Research, Purchases

Comparing prices the most common in-store mobile activity

Digital channels are now the method of choice for both product research and purchasing. According to a March 2014 study by UPS, comScore and the e-tailing group, 82% of US digital buyers preferred to research products from multichannel retailers on the internet via desktop/laptop (61%), tablet (11%) or smartphone (10%), compared with 13% who said they would rather research items in a physical store.

In addition, digital devices were favored for purchasing products from multichannel retailers, with 55% of respondents preferring to use a desktop/laptop, tablet or smartphone when buying items, vs. 41% who liked to do so in brick-and-mortars. Though smartphones and tablets trailed PCs by a long shot for the preferred digital buying method, that didn’t mean they weren’t seeing any action: 46% of users had made a purchase on such devices.

And while desktops and laptops were also the method of choice for research, mobile was gaining ground—both in and out of stores. One-quarter of respondents said they researched products on their mobile devices prior to visiting a store weekly, and 22% reported conducting research—and looking for alternatives—via mobile while at a store.

Respondents were likely looking for alternatives to make sure they were getting the best deal, as the study found that comparing prices was the most frequent in-store smartphone activity, cited by 36%.

November 2013 research conducted by Research Now for Swirl found similar results. Among the 85% of US smartphone users polled who had used a mobile shopping app while inside a store, 81% said they did so to search for sales and offers.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have tried to combat this behavior, but pure play ecommerce companies are proving to be a challenge—in particular, Amazon, whose recently unveiled Fire Phone includes Firefly, which promotes showrooming.

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