Most People Can't Shop Without Their Mobile Phones


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With every new study conducted on how people have integrated mobile devices into their everyday life, imagining a life without smartphones increasingly sounds like a return to a hunter-gatherer society. Solidifying that presumption are some conclusions from a new study by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Projects conducted over the Christmas shopping season that looked at how Americans used their cell phones to guide their purchases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most adults resorted to the cell phone lifeline in one way or another while deliberating a purchase.

Of the 1,000 included in the study, 52% of adult cell phone users said that they used their phone while inside of a brick-and-mortar store to help with their purchasing decisions. Of those adults, one third of them used their phone to look up information about a product online, either to check out reviews or to compare prices. 38% of those adults went for a more personal touch, though, and called a friend to ask for advice.

Regardless of how the cell phone was used, one fact is becoming very salient in our culture: we can't buy stuff without consulting some kind of third party via the use of our cell phone. In fact, the mere presence of a cell phone in a purse or pocket seems to be affecting the way people decide on their purchases:

  • 37% decided to not purchase the product at all
  • 35% purchased the product at that store
  • 19% purchased the product online
  • 8% purchased the product at another store
  • Aaron W. Smith, Senior Research Specialist with Pew, said, “These findings show that the growing availability of smartphones and other mobile devices has dramatically changed the shopping experience." He continued, "Consumers are frequently using their phones to make sure they get the most highly-rated product at the best price, and in many cases they are willing to go elsewhere or delay their purchase until they find the right combination of value and quality.”

    Indeed, one in five "mobile price matchers," as Pew has labelled these cell phoned sales hounds, ultimately opted not to make their purchase at a brick-and-mortar store and instead chose to buy the product from an online store. More, 5% of of all cell phone owners actually looked up a product while inside the physical and then chose to purchase it online. Makes you wonder how much incentive apps like Amazon's Price Check app really did influence shoppers this past Christmas. The app likely wasn't creating a new shopping strategy in potential consumers but, rather, simply made it whole lot easier to compare prices and look up reviews while you're standing in a store.

    Still, when only 1 in 10 cell owners who searched for the price of a product while inside a physical store still chose to make their purchase at the store, that's not good news for brick-and-mortar stores. Did any of you out there resort to such scrutinizing shopping practices this past holiday season? Share your thoughts or experiences below.