Deloitte Study: Smartphones ramp up, rather than take away, in-store sales

New York -- A study released Wednesday by Deloitte found that smartphones – which already influence 5.1% of all retail store sales in the United States – are expected to impact 19% of total store sales, amounting to $689 billion, by 2016.

“The Mobile Influence Factor in Retail Sales” research study by Deloitte also indicated that mobile activities are contributing to, and not taking away from, in-store sales. In fact, said Deloitte, smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.

“This means that mobile is an important tool for retailers to incrementally drive traditional in-store sales, strengthening the relationship between retailer and consumer to increase engagement and loyalty," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader.

To better understand the growing impact of mobile devices on the retail sector, Deloitte's retail & distribution practice and Deloitte Digital conducted the in-depth survey of U.S. consumers about how they use their smartphones to shop today and their likelihood of using them in future buying decisions.

Among the report’s other key findings:

Nearly half (48%) of smartphone owners surveyed say their phones have influenced their decision to purchase an item in a store, and the study shows that consumers' smartphone use tends to be highest at or near the point of purchase. 

More than six out of 10 (61%) of smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so while shopping at the store, and 52% reach for their phones on the way to the store.

Smartphone-toting consumers appear more likely to make a purchase than those who do not own one or do not use it to assist in-store shopping. When asked about their most recent shopping trip, 72% of smartphone owners indicated they made a purchase on that day, compared with 63% of respondents who did not use a phone. Smartphone users were also more likely to eventually make a purchase: among those who did not buy anything on their last trip, 59% of those who used a smartphone eventually made a purchase, compared to only 22% of those who did not use one. 

The report emphasized the importance of mobile apps, which, said Deloitte, appear to be the inroad to consumer engagement. Nearly four out of 10 (37%) of smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping application, and more than one-third (34%) used a retailer's mobile application.

"Retailers that do not engage shoppers through specialized mobile applications or targeted smartphone-based promotions leave the door open for competitors to reach a customer who is standing in the retailer's store and at the point of purchase," said Kasey Lobaugh, principal and direct-to-consumer and multichannel leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. "To make the connection with consumers, retailers need to understand how mobile shoppers are willing to interact with their specific store category, format and merchandise, both inside and outside the store, and customize their mobile strategy around the shopper's needs and experience."

As consumers buy smartphones, they are quick to tap their devices for shopping assistance, with smartphone use for store-related shopping increasing 40% after the first six months of ownership, according to Deloitte's survey. Once these consumers are on board, they consistently use their phones for 50% to 60% of their store shopping trips, depending on the store category.

The survey found that the mobile influence factor is strongest among younger shoppers: 67% between 14 and 34 years old have used their devices to shop, and 55% indicate their smartphones have influenced their decision to make a purchase.

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