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NEW YORK -- Smartphone use currently influences 5.1 percent of annual retail store sales, which translates into $159 billion in forecasted sales for 2012, according to a new study conducted by Deloitte Digital.
Based on consumers' smartphone use, Deloitte anticipates that mobile's influence will grow to represent 19 percent of total retail store sales by 2016, amounting to $689 billion in mobile-influenced sales. By comparison, direct mobile commerce sales will pass the $30-billion mark by that time, according to industry estimates.
The in-depth study – billed by Deloitte as a first for the industry -- measures the "mobile influence factor," or impact of smartphones on in-store sales. The survey was commissioned by Deloitte Digital and conducted online by an independent research company from March 20-30. The survey polled a national sample of 1,041 consumers and then implemented this sample with additional smartphone owners to reach a sample of 1,557 smartphone owners. The sample has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the smartphone owners surveyed said 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 percent) of the smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so while shopping at the store, and more than half (52 percent) reach for their phones on the way to the store.
Smartphone consumers appear more likely to make a purchase than those who do not own one or do not use it to assist with in-store shopping. When asked about their most recent shopping trip, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the smartphone owners surveyed indicated they made a purchase on that day, compared with 63 percent of respondents who did not use a phone.
Mobile applications (apps) appear to be the answer to consumer engagement. Nearly four out of 10 (37 percent) smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping app, and more than one-third (34 percent) used a retailer's mobile app.
"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 for 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. Once these consumers are on board, they consistently use their phones for 50 percent to 60 percent of their store shopping trips, depending on the store category, the study found.
The mobile influence factor is strongest among younger shoppers, suggesting that as this segment ages, a retailer's core customers will increasingly be armed with smartphones. In Deloitte's survey, nearly seven out of 10 smartphone owners (67 percent) between ages 14 and 34 said they have used their devices to shop, and 55 percent indicate their smartphones have influenced their decision to make a purchase.