Just browsing: mobile shoppers fail to hit buy

Nearly half of all consumers are reaching for their smartphones to window shop for the right product to buy, but they are not all clicking the “buy” online box, a new study has found.

A survey of 3020 Australian adults found that 47 per cent were using their phone to browse stores and products but only 25 per cent were purchasing online from their phones. Instead, consumers were using phones to compare prices, locate stores, read reviews and check product availability online.

The PayPal and eBay study conducted by research company Nielsen found nine out of 10 Australians had used a personal computer to begin their shopping research. Of those surveyed 25 per cent they had used a tablet. Consumers could nominate more than one device mode.

Shoppers who looked for a product on a computer almost uniformly had bought online too, 91 per cent, but mobile shoppers were much less likely to purchase online. Tablet users were more likely than phone shoppers to buy using their tablet with 16 per cent overall of those surveyed buying through a tablet.

The survey estimates that consumers will “spend” $5.6 billion on phones and tablets shopping in 2012, up from $155 billion in 2010. The number of Australians buying online with a mobile device has risen from 12 per cent in January 2011 to 32 per cent in October this year.

PayPal Australia vice president Jeff Clementz said the survey showed consumers still wanted to shop at bricks-and-mortar stores.

“The ritual of visiting shops, trying on clothes, and interacting with sales people is not dying, but how people get to your shop and what represents value and convenience – this is changing and technology is enabling it,” Mr Clementz said.

He said it was imperative that retailers have an online presence at every stage of shopping from browsing to postage and delivery, a view echoed by Australian Retailer Association executive director Russell Zimmerman who said details of store locations in particular were important.

Mr Zimmerman said consumers felt less comfortable using a smartphone than a computer to buy online because computers allowed them to print receipts and smartphones were a smaller format and harder for some consumers to use.

“I think there is still some sense of security being an issue in using a phone to follow through with an actual purchase,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“I think it does show, though, that people are using their smartphones when they are out-and-about to get to the right product while they are heading out to go shopping.”

He said smartphone use for transactions would continue to increase as consumers felt more comfortable with the security of the the technology.

He said the survey result of higher transactions among tablet users was perplexing because the technology was newer but could reflect its usability and larger format.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed used a search engine to discover a product, with about 45 per cent using eBay and 37 per cent typing in a URL to begin their shopping search.

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