A new survey of UK smartphone and tablet owners shows that mobile is helping to drive an increase in impulse buying, particularly for clothes and music.

However the results also show that security concerns remain a key reason preventing consumers from embracing m-commerce.

The survey, commissioned by Rackspace, interviewed 2,009 smartphone and tablet owners on their attitudes towards various aspects of m-commerce.

It found that just 40% of respondents make purchases using their device, meaning that there is still a huge amount of room for m-commerce to grow even among the current audience of smartphone and tablet owners.

This figure is slightly lower than data from our Multichannel Retail Survey which found that 25% of all UK consumers had made a purchase using their mobile.

As smartphone penetration in the UK is roughly 50%, then this approximately doubles to 50% of the smartphone owning population that have made a purchase using their device.

Impulse buying

Almost one-fifth (17%) of respondents to the Rackspace survey said that mobile devices have increased their impulse purchases.

71% of this group said that the main reason for the increase in spending is that the process is so simple and the technology is so easy to use, while 27% said that the experience of shopping with smartphones and tablets is better than shopping in-store.

As tends to be common with these sorts of surveys, younger respondents were found to be more tech savvy with 62% of 18-34 year olds buying things on the spot today, compared to 32% of those aged older than 55.

The findings highlight the need for retailers to offer customers a convenient, user-friendly m-commerce store to make sure they capture impulse purchases.

In the first instance this means making sure your website is mobile optimised, but also shortening the purchase journey as much as possible by stripping out any unnecessary barriers or form filling.

We previously reviewed the top 20 UK retailers’ mobile checkouts, as well as blogging eight best practice tips for mobile call-to-actions.

Rackspace’s survey also looked at which industries stand to benefit most from the increase in impulse buying.

Clothes are the most popular impulse buy for 41% of mobile shoppers, followed by books (35%), music (32%) and fast food or takeaways (14%).

Security concerns

As mentioned, 60% of those surveyed said they do not shop online using their smartphone or tablet.

A large majority (84%) of this group said that they simply prefer to use their laptop or desktop, while just over a quarter (27%) said that they are worried about security.

Furthermore, 59% are uncomfortable with, or wary of, storing credit card details online and nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents are concerned that retailers will share their details.

The results echo concerns that were flagged up in qualitative research by Webcredible, which found that security, safety, screen size and connectivity were the main barriers to m-commerce adoption.

David Moth

Published 27 September, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (10)

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Jill Tooley

Interesting study! These statistics seem believable. I don't typically buy anything from my smartphone, not because I don't trust it but because it's kind of a pain to enter card numbers on such a small screen. (Then again, I'm horrible at typing on touch screens).

If I see a great deal on my phone and decide I want to buy it, I'll just email it to myself and make the purchase when I'm on a real computer.

almost 6 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I realise that the abundance of smartphones nowadays would have led to increases in purchases from such devices.

I do wonder how much app technology contributes to this. Retailers investing more in clever and easy to use apps that make it much more easier to purchase quickly online.

If most retailers had seamless apps or mobile websites where purchasing is a quick and easy process, I can see this increasing much further. I would definitely prefer to purchase something using my mobile if it was an easier process for all retailers.

almost 6 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I still think that there's an element of increased purchasing on these devices because they are typically owned by people with more disposable income.

Like Jill says, entering details on a smaller touch screen is enough to put you off standard ecommerce on the go. I think this increase in purchasing behaviour has come also as a result of the ecommerce conversion optimisations in recent years where the sales process has been streamlined with one touch buying and app interfaces, etc.

Having the ability to buy faster and wherever we are is going to tempt tht impulse buy hugely!

almost 6 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

It’s good to see that music is legally being purchased through a platform which people are becoming more comfortable with using. Given the fact that you can’t escape tablet and mobile, what with the new iPhone 5 emerging among other devices, I’d expect to see the 40% figure increase over the next year or so when the same sample is used again. With regards to impulse buying, a lot of people are always connected with their phones, so it becomes more tempting to quickly browse and purchase something they have seen. Although by ‘better than shopping in store’ wouldn’t that generally mean ‘more convenient’ for most users?

almost 6 years ago


Jamil Kassam, Global eTrade Marketing Manager at Philips

Really surprised to see clothing listed as the most popular impulse buy, I always find it a nightmare trying to browse from the huge ranges that retailers like Asos, John Lewis or House of Fraser have online.

I wonder if any retailers would start to edit their product offering for mobile phones, restricting to bestselling or promotional lines to limit the amount of browsing consumers are forced to do.

almost 6 years ago


Rob Jones

I definitely thought technology would be more of an impulse buy then clothes but then again both are quick to buy nowadays. Its only a matter of time before we see social media commerce blow up and the high streets will truly be empty.

almost 6 years ago


Peter Kearney

Very intersting study. dont like the ternm imulse buying - it assumes that buyers dicard otr water down their decision-making process. In fact, mobile commerce just allows them to move along the buying journey more quickly.

almost 6 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Relating to the clothes example - retailers are pushing for people to order a number clothing items, they are then able to return the items they don't want or those that don't fit. This way an individual can make the decision process at home rather than online.

This may also increase the impulse buying habit on the purchase of clothes.

almost 6 years ago



I think people buy the devices because they do not want to be left out! I don't buy anything from my smartphone as I am trying to keep up with technology. It isn't easy when you are over 60. However, I do see people on the back of my website that are using their smart phones to buy. I think the biggest concern I would have is if I lose the smartphone and somewhere on it, someone was able to get my credit card numbers.
I agree that clothing is high on impulse buying, because it is like comfort food. It makes you feel good for a short period of time until the bill comes in. Interesting article

over 5 years ago


isabella martin, Web Developer at http://www.thefas-solutions.com/

Interesting article.Great research work you share.As the technology is increasing more people wants to buy online as it is easy to buy with just a tap or a click.It also helps the retailers to expand their business.If retailers just make their website design responsive so they can offer mobile services too.

about 3 years ago

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