What’s Mobile’s Influence In-Store?

March 1, 2016

PwC-Consumers-In-Store-Mobile-Activities-Mar2016Mobile devices and other digital technologies continue to have a growing impact on retail, including in-store shopping, according to a series of recent studies. In fact, digital’s influence on US in-store sales appears to be particularly large relative to other mature markets.

A new report [pdf] from Deloitte examines digital’s influence on in-store sales across 9 countries, building on its prior report that analyzed the US only. With digital influencing 49% of its in-store sales and mobile influencing 28% of its in-store sales, the US leads in digital influence among the 6 mature markets studied. By comparison, for example, digital influences 28% of in-store sales in the UK, with mobile influencing 16%, an interesting finding given other research showing that e-commerce’s share of total retail sales is highest in the UK.

Interestingly, digital’s influence on in-store sales is higher in the 3 developing markets (India, Mexico and China) studied by Deloitte, hovering at around 60% of in-store sales. Mobile’s role is also higher in these countries, influencing slightly more than one-third of in-store sales in China.

In fact, a newly released report from PwC [pdf] cites data indicating that almost two-thirds (65%) of Chinese shoppers shop online via their mobile at least monthly, roughly three times the proportion (22%) of US shoppers who do so with that frequency. Moreover, some 59% of Chinese shoppers believe that their mobile phone will become the main tool through which they purchase items, compared to 34% of shoppers globally.

How Are Mobile Devices Being Used In-Store?

About three-quarters of the nearly 23,000 online shoppers surveyed by PwC across 25 territories report using a mobile device while in-store. The most common uses of mobile are:

  • Comparing prices with competitors (36%);
  • Researching products (36%);
  • Accessing a coupon/promotional code (31%);
  • Checking reviews about the product/retailer (25%); and
  • Accessing a confirmation email to pick up product purchased online (23%).

Not surprisingly, Millennials (18-34) are more likely to be engaging in these activities than those 35 and older. For example, among the more popular activities, they are:

  • 35% more likely to compare prices with competitors (42% vs. 31%);
  • 43% more likely to research products (43% vs. 30%); and
  • 38% more likely to access a coupon/promotional code (36% vs. 26%).

Within the US, more than 8 in 10 Millennials (18-34) use their mobile devices while in-store, compared to 55% of shoppers over 35, per the PwC results. Globally, those figures are 88% and 65%, respectively.

Among those shoppers who do not use a mobile/smartphone while shopping in-store, the most commonly-cited reasons are: not seeing the benefit (38%); preferring to speak to sales staff directly (27%); and not owning a mobile or smartphone (18%).

Meanwhile, a separate report [download page] from The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research also looks at US shoppers’ mobile activities in-store, finding that 41% look for discounts/promotions on their device, 28% compare prices, and 27% look up product reviews.

Finally, outside of the store, a study from UPS and comScore indicates that among shoppers who have recently purchased a high-tech product (such as a computer or mobile phone) online, 76% tracked the delivery on a mobile device. A majority of these shoppers also reported using a retailer’s mobile app (70%), purchasing products on mobile devices (69%) and researching products on a mobile device while in-store (69%).

How Does Digital Impact Different Categories?

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that high-tech shoppers are more apt to be using their mobile devices for shopping, as electronics appears to be one of the most digitally-influenced retail categories, according to Deloitte.

The Deloitte report shows that digital’s influence on in-store sales varies by product category and market. Even so, electronics appears to be the category most influenced by digital in a majority of the markets. That’s true within the US, where it is the leading category impacted by digital among those identified, followed by furniture/home furnishings, automobile, books/music/entertainment and baby/toddler.

Meanwhile, PwC’s report shows how research and purchasing behavior differs across categories also, demonstrating that on a global basis:

  • Preference for researching via mobile devices is highest for books, music, movies and video games, followed by clothing and footwear; while
  • Preference for purchasing via mobile device is also highest in these categories, joined this time by toys.

The Store Maintains Its Influence

Still, despite digital (including social, which these reports also look at in detail) having a growing influence on retail, the store does maintain its relevance.

In fact, respondents to the PwC survey are more likely to prefer researching products in-store than online across almost all categories, with the only exceptions being household appliances, books, music, movies and video games, and toys (where the gap is marginal).

Moreover, when it comes to the preferred purchase method, in-store plays an even bigger role, leading in all categories save for the entertainment (books, music, movies and video games) sector.

Why stick to in-store shopping? The survey from The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research suggests that among those shoppers who believe that in-store delivers a better experience, the leading reasons are that:

  • It inspires them and makes shopping fun;
  • It’s accessible, in allowing respondents to get what they want when and how they want; and
  • It provides a large assortment/selection.

In order to make the in-store shopping experience better, respondents to the PwC survey most commonly pointed to:

  • Sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range (40% globally; 41% in the US);
  • Ease of checkout (35% globally; 46% in the US); and
  • The ability to check other stores or online stock quickly (32% globally and in the US).

About the Data: PwC describes its methodology as follows:

“PwC’s Global Retail and Consumer practice, in conjunction with PwC’s Research to Insight (r2i), administered a global survey to understand and compare consumer shopping behaviors and the use of different retail channels across 25 territories: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China/Hong Kong, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Middle East, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The survey was fielded among almost 23,000 online shoppers, 1,000 of whom are in the US.

The Deloitte study is based on surveys conducted by an independent research company between November 2014 and March 2015, polling roughly 2,000 random consumers in each of 9 markets: US; Canada; Australia; Germany; Netherlands; and the UK.

The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research survey was fielded among 1,225 US shoppers in November 2015.

The UPS and comScore “Pulse of the High-Tech Online Shopper” study encompasses data gathered from 2,133 survey panelists in February 2015.

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