Harris: 20% Of US Consumers Buy Via Mobile; 62% Couldn’t Care Less

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Mobile devices, by some estimates, will become a replacement for your wallet in the future, with NFC, dongles and sophisticated apps helping you buy things and manage the rest of your financial life, and with companies like Visa getting in on the action and eBay/PayPal expecting $8 billion in mobile transactions this year. But in reality, when it comes to using a mobile to buy something, most of us are not.

A poll from Harris Interactive, commissioned by the location-based shopping alert provider Placecast, found that only one in five people — 20 percent — of adult mobile owners have used their devices in the last year to purchase goods and services, whether that is at a point of sale or via a mobile app or site.

As for how many consumers actually wanted purchasing functionality in their devices, 62 percent said it was “not at all important.”

Harris’ numbers, which are based on a poll of nearly 2,000 users, take into account both smartphone and regular phone owners, and are doubtless skewed by the fact that low-end device owners are being considered here as well.

Research from Nielsen on mobile commerce found much higher numbers when considering owners of smartphones and tablets. In Q1 2012, 79 percent of smartphone and tablet owners used their devices for “shopping-related” activities. But even in Nielsen’s case, only 29 percent of smartphone owners had actually used their devices to purchase something.

As you would expect, Harris found that mobile-commerce activities are more popular among smartphone owners than among those with feature phones. It found that 34 percent of smartphone owners had purchased items with their mobile devices, compared to just 11 percent of feature phone owners.

That was apparent in other aspects of mobile commerce as well — for example, 50 percent of smartphone users said they’d used GPS or a mapping app (the most popular “m-commerce”-related activity, according to the poll) to find the location of a business; that number dropped to only 11 percent on more basic devices.

Part of this might be due to the lack of features in feature phones, but it also indicates that progress will only come when more people are using smartphones.

For feature phone users, the most popular activity was browsing the websites of retailers on their mobile devices. This, however, was only done by 13 percent of responding consumers.