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More than Half of UK Smartphone Owners Use Their Phones in Stores

Mcommerce is on the rise, with 42% buying via smartphone

More and more UK consumers are reaching for smartphones while browsing in physical stores, according to a February 2014 report, “Agile Consumer 2013,” commissioned by Cheil Worldwide. Its research partner OnePoll conducted the study, which looked at a wide range of shopping behaviors involving smartphones, from general research to price-checking and purchasing, in Q4 2013.

Researching with a phone is now the norm—not the exception—according to Cheil. Seven in 10 respondents had used their phones to check out potential purchases and compare prices. Over one-third went to mobile price comparison sites, and 17% had visited the mobile sites of individual retailers.

Retail apps were popular, too, and accessed in many locations. Some 42% of smartphone owners turned to apps to browse products while at home, and one-quarter did this while commuting or at work.

Phones really came into their own in physical stores, however. Over half (55%) of the sample confessed to using their phones on shopping trips. Of that group, 54% said they compared prices online via mobile. Almost as many (46%) gathered more information on products, and 41% took photos of potential buys. And good news for physical retailers: Showrooming wasn’t very common. Only 17% of smartphone owners used a mobile device to find a competitive offer on another merchant’s website and bought there.

Smartphone owners were clearly open to mobile marketing messages, too. Some 72% said they would be more likely to revisit a store if it sent coupons and tailored promotions to their phones. A similar number (73%) would be more likely to buy additional products if they received a mobile voucher or coupon while shopping in a store.

Mobile buying isn’t as widespread as mobile shopping, of course. Just 17% of people researching via smartphone also bought with the device. But that was a higher proportion than the 12% who researched in-store on their phones and then bought at that store. Overall, 42% of UK smartphone owners had bought something with their phones, and over half of those said it was easy to do so.

These behavioral changes are dramatic—and there’s much more to come as retailers increasingly follow their customers onto mobile platforms. eMarketer estimates that UK mobile phone penetration will approach 81% this year, with nearly 52 million people owning at least one. That’s a lot of shoppers.

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