Shoppers rely on mobile devices and apps to find best deals, but few use devices to purchase products: study

September 14, 2012

With back-to-school season in full swing, tech-savvy consumers are using their smart phones and apps to find the best bargains. Many shoppers, however, are still reluctant to make those purchases using their mobile devices, according to a new report by Ryerson University's Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA).

"We're seeing more retailers releasing for consumers to purchase from their smart phones or help them make an informed decision before buying a product, so we're interested in finding out how effective they really are," says Andrew Murray, a GIS analyst at CSCA and a co-author of the report.

Murray and his co-author Tony Hernandez, director of CSCA, conducted an in April of 836 full- and part-time aged 18 to 25 at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management.

The researchers asked the students about the type of device they own; the number of apps, especially shopping-related, they download each week, month and year; types of shopping activities they do with their mobile device (buying a product, looking up store hours, reading product reviews); and their attitudes towards using mobile devices to shop.

Murray and Hernandez also looked at barriers these consumers may face when using their mobile device to buy a product (i.e. concerns over security of information, costly data plan fees).

The researchers found that the majority of students own a smart phone (91%), with the remainder owning tablets and cell phones. Two-thirds of the students surveyed use their mobile device to look up information about retailers or products, yet only one-third made purchases with their smart phone. The most common purchases made on mobile devices were music/video (32%), video games (24%), books (19%) and fashion (19%).

Most students used their mobile device to look up store hours (62%), find a store location (59%), search for product information (55%) and compare product pricing (40%). The least common activities were providing feedback on a product (5%), redeeming gift cards (6%) and receiving product promotions based on current location (7%).

Other key findings of Murray and Hernandez's research include:

  • Most students surveyed prefer to shop in physical store locations as opposed to online;
  • Nearly 70 per cent of students prefer to view a product in-store before purchasing it online;
  • About one third of the respondents would like to see more retailers provide staff with mobile devices to better serve the customer.
"These findings are telling us that consumers haven't fully embraced the mobile online shopping experience for retail transactions," says Hernandez. "However they are using their and tablets as a primary source of information while shopping before they make purchase a product or service."

The researchers also predict more consumers will choose to purchase a broader range of products and services using their and download more retail apps, a trend that their findings uncovered as well. Just over 40 per cent of students in the survey see themselves making a purchase with their device and 58 per cent plan to download more retail apps within the next year.

"In today's competitive marketplace and changing digital retail landscape, retailers have to keep their fingers on the pulse of consumers' purchasing behaviour, adds Murray. "That is the key to connecting with customers, nurturing brand loyalty and ultimately generating more sales."

The report, "Retail in the Digital Age: The Mobile Shopping Companion," was published by the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity.

Explore further: Augmented reality makes shopping more personal

Related Stories

Augmented reality makes shopping more personal

July 3, 2012

While in-store shopping accounts for 92 percent of retail volume, consumers are expecting the same levels of personalization and customization that they do when they shop online; 58 percent of consumers want to get in-store ...

Ringing up sales on smartphones

November 24, 2010

As the holiday season and "Black Friday" approach, consumers will be looking for deals in the still struggling economy. Online shopping has become popular with many customers, and now a new technology enables them to make ...

Mobile marketing for the future

December 20, 2011

Bar code scanner apps turn smart phone cameras into a way for shoppers to receive instant, on-the-go, online price comparisons for any item with a Universal Product Code. Does this mean consumers are moving toward online ...

Shoppers whip out smart phones to streamline purchases

November 12, 2010

Standing before a display of heart-rate monitors at Sports Authority, Robert Dries of Brookfield, Wis., was ready to buy the one he'd heard about at his health club. But before making the purchase, he decided to pull out ...

Recommended for you

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.