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How Does Wi-Fi Affect Mobile Shoppers?

Price comparisons increase, but so do mobile payments

Wi-Fi is slowly but surely weaving itself into the fabric of the shopping experience. A Q4 2012 report from JiWire found that, worldwide, the number of public Wi-Fi locations climbed dramatically over a 12-month period—going from 682,929 in 2011 to 820,262 in 2012. The growing ubiquity of Wi-Fi has presented a challenge and an opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers by putting powerful research tools in the hands of shoppers, but also providing them with new point-of-sale capabilities.

Shoppers are taking full advantage of the information they can access using their mobile devices. JiWire’s survey of US customers found that more than nine in 10 smartphone owners had used their device while at a physical store location. According to JiWire, both men and women who used in-store Wi-Fi on their phones were most often using it to compare prices, read customer reviews or hunt down coupons and other deals that could be used at the store’s physical location.

Much like Wi-Fi usage, the use of mobile payments also saw a significant increase in 2012. While only 37% of those polled reported using a mobile payment system in Q1 2012, by Q4 2012 that number had jumped to 51%.

As of Q4 2012, PayPal held a distinct advantage over both Amazon Payments and Google Wallet as the mobile payment method of choice. About one-third of mobile Wi-Fi users had used PayPal during the 30 days preceding the poll, compared with 20% for Amazon and 10% for Google. Notably, the percentage of those who had never used a mobile payment system dropped to 29% in the last quarter of 2012, compared with 41% at the beginning of the year.

In order to take full advantage of mobile devices and mobile payment systems, retailers need to embrace an omnichannel approach that appears seamless to a customer, whether they’re using a smartphone, laptop, tablet or browsing the aisles of a store.

Mobile devices should be seen both as marketing tools and as a new way of collecting sales. eMarketer projects that proximity mobile payments in the US are set to explode, growing from $2.12 billion in 2013 to $62.24 billion in 2016.

Corporate subscribers have access to all eMarketer analyst reports, articles, data and more. Join the over 750 companies already benefiting from eMarketer’s approach. Learn more.

Check out today’s other articles, “Traditional Media Spend Dips Lower as More Dollars Shift to Digital” and “Consumers in Germany Resist Brand Social Content, but Are Persuadable.”

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