Anyone who owns a smartphone will know that they come in extremely handy for checking prices and reviews when out shopping.

But marketing strategies can’t be based on hunches, so I thought it would be useful to pull together some surveys and studies that validate this assumption.

The use of mobile in-store is a topic we’ve discussed in detail in a blog post looking at whether retailers should offer free Wi-Fi and our report on How The Internet Can Save The High Street.

And to add to the debate, here are eight useful studies that reveal how and why consumers use smartphones in-store…

Give customers the information they need

A report from Vibes published in September found that 80% of smartphone owners always or often have their phone with them while shopping.

Of those consumers, a third (33%) have used their device to lookup a product on a competitor’s site while 20% have researched the store’s own website.

The second most popular activity was looking up a product review (31%), followed by scanning a QR code for more information (27%).

Of those who do research other options, 25% left the store and made a purchase from a competitor, representing 6% of smartphone owners overall.

This may seem like a small number, but as smartphones become increasingly prevalent this number is likely to increase unless stores give consumers the information they need to make an informed purchase decision.

Vibes’ data comes from an online survey of 1,006 US mobile phone owners. 

Showrooming is on the increase

A consumer survey by JiWire shows that the use of mobile in-store is becoming increasingly common.

Its Q3 Mobile Audience Insights Report found that 85% of smartphone owners use their devices while in-store.

This is a 33% increase from Q4 2011, when less than two-thirds used their device in-store.

Comparison shopping (49%) and searching for reviews (41%) remain the most popular activities, while 19% purchased on their mobile while in-store.

JiWire’s report is also based on mobile usage data, which shows that consumers tend to be most active on their device when in the mall.

This data is based on ad requests on the JiWire network, but it does give a good indication of consumer mobile usage.

Shoppers are 63% and 144% more likely to engage on their mobile devices while at big box retailers (i.e. department stores such as Walmart and Target) than at electronic retailers and clothing retailers, respectively.

JiWire’s Mobile Audience Insights Report is based on data from approximately 315,000 public Wi-Fi locations, as well as surveying nearly 1,400 customers randomly selected across JiWire’s Wi-Fi Media Channel in July to September 2012.

42% of smartphone owners check price online while in-store

A survey of 2,000 European consumers conducted by Tradedoubler found that 42% of smartphone owners use their device to compare prices in-store, while 13% claim to have switched stores after finding a better offer elsewhere.

Location-based offers or vouchers, however, help to secure the interest of a fifth of potential buyers.

Tradedoubler’s survey also highlights the importance of mobile optimised sites.

A quarter (26%) of respondents said they would buy more frequently if websites were optimised, and 50% of UK respondents said they become frustrated with the mobile shopping experience.

Mobile usage is more common among younger age groups

As you might expect, consumers aged 18-34 are far more likely than older age groups to use their smartphone when out shopping.

Data included in our new Multichannel Retail Survey shows that just over half (51%) of UK consumers check prices and reviews on their device while in-store compared to just 16% of those aged 55+.

Overall 43% of UK respondents and 50% of those in the US said they had checked prices and reviews in-store. This has increased sharply from 19% and 20% respectively in 2011.

The report also asked whether respondents had used their smartphone to find more information on a retailer’s nearest store or opening times.

Although those using their mobile to find more information on retailers’ stores are still in the minority, the proportion doing so has increased since the 2011 survey; in the UK from 25% to 32%, and in the US from 27% to 41%.

Behaviour differs depending on the type of store

A survey of US smartphone owners who use their mobile devices while shopping in-store found that behaviour differs depending on the type of retail outlet.

For example, using or requesting a coupon is most popular at grocery stores (41%), department stores (41%), and clothing stores (39%).

In comparison, at electronics stores the vast majority of smartphone shoppers read reviews (73%), compare prices with other retail outlets (71%) and scan QR codes to get more product details (57%).

Nielsen suggests that the more considered the purchase, the more likely it is that consumers will turn to their smartphones to find product information.

Smartphone activity by store type

Mobile influences 5% of US retail sales

According to data from Deloitte, 5.1% of all in-store retail sales in the US are currently influenced by mobile.

This is based on a weighted average that reflects the varying sales levels for different types of stores.

The total varies depending on the type of store, with mobile influencing 8.3% of sales in electronic/appliance stores and 3% in convenience stores and gas stations.

Mobile influence by store category

By 2016 Deloitte predicts that mobile will influence around $689bn of US retail sales.

Some of the the evidence for this comes from the fact that 61% of respondents in a Deloitte survey (sample size of 1,041) said they use their smartphone to aid the shopping experience while in-store and 52% said they use it on the way to the store.

Mobile to influence £15bn of in-store sales in the UK in 2012

Almost half (46%) of UK smartphone owners have used their device to research product information before or during a shopping trip, according to a survey of more than 2,000 consumers by Deloitte Digital.

As a result, Deloitte estimates that around 6% of in-store retail sales will be influenced by smartphone use, equivalent to £15.2bn of sales per year.

This is almost double the value of direct purchases made through mobile, which Deloitte puts at £8bn in 2012.

The use of smartphones also appears to increase conversion rates in-store for retailers. According to Deloitte almost three-quarters (74%) of UK shoppers that visited a retailer’s mobile website or app during their most recent shopping trip made a purchase.

The impact of mobile on in-store purchases varies depending on the sector. In electronics it influences 10% of sales compared to just 2.9% for convenience stores and 3.8% for supermarkets.

But while 64% of smartphone owners have used their device to make a bank payment or pay a bill, just 1% have used their phone to make an in-store payment.

More than half of US smartphone owners check prices

An Empathica survey of 6,500 US internet users found that 55% of smartphone owners have used their device to compare prices while in-store.

A further 34% said they’ve scanned a QR code, and 27% have read online reviews from their devices before making purchase decisions.