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Pew: More Than Half Of Adults Used Cell Phones In Stores For Purchasing Decisions During The Holidays

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The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is releasing a new study today that provides further evidence of the growing trend of consumers using mobile phones in stores for purchasing decisions. Pew says that more than half of adult cell phone owners used their cell phones while they were in a store to seek help with purchasing decisions this past holiday shopping season.

According to the report, 38% of cell owners used their phone to call a friend while they were in a store for advice about a purchase they were considering making And 24% of cell owners used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store, with 25% of adult cell owners using their phones to look up the price of a product online while they were in a store, to see if they could get a better price somewhere else.

One third (33%) used their phone specifically for online information while inside a physical store—either product reviews or pricing information. In fact, one in five “mobile price matchers” ultimately made their most recent purchase from an online store, rather than a physical location.

This is interesting considering Amazon’s move over the holidays to offer discounts to consumers on any product purchased via its price comparison mobile app. This was a huge blow to physical retailers, who called the move unfair.

Pew reports that cell owners ages 18-49 are significantly more likely to use their phones for online product reviews than are cell owners ages 50 and older. Cell owners ages 65 and older are especially unlikely to use their phones to look up information in stores—just 4% did so this holiday season.

In terms of other demographics, urban and suburban cell owners are roughly twice as likely as rural cell owners to have recently used their phone to look up online reviews of a product they found in a physical store.

Unsurprisingly, online price matching and looking up online reviews frequently go hand in hand. Overall, of the 33% of cell owners who used their phone recently in a store to look up either product reviews or prices online, roughly half (representing 17% of all cell owners) used their phones to engage in both of these activities.

When asked what happened on the most recent occasion where they used their phone to look up the price online of a product they found in a store, mobile price matchers point to a range of outcomes: 37% decided to not purchase the product at all, 35% purchased the product at that store, 19% purchased the product online and 8% purchased the product at another store.

While we’ve been witnessing the fact that mobile is becoming a significant part of the in-store and online shopping experience, the Pew report’s data only emphasizes this trend. And although consumers tend to shop at increased levels during the holiday season, there’s no doubt that mobile is going to be an important engagement platform for both online and brick and mortar retailers throughout the year.