The importance of smartphone technology to the UK shopper experience has been hard to ignore this past month with an abundance of mobile commerce data being added to our Internet Statistics Compendium.

UK mobile owners are making more purchases from their devices and are also using them when visiting offline stores. The growth of the sector is certainly one to keep an eye on, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Mobile commerce growth

Data published in October from a new tracking initiative by IMRG highlights the growth of the mobile commerce sector in the UK. 

During Q2 2011 visits to e-commerce sites from mobile devices accounted for 7% of overall traffic, up from an average of 1.4% in Q1 2010.

The research also shows that UK mobile shoppers are buying more and are now making 3.3% of e-commerce purchases from mobile devices. This is an increase from 0.4% at the beginning of 2010. 

Mobile shoppers

The recently launched Our Mobile Planet tool from Google and fresh data from Intersperience also goes into considerable depth concerning the buying habits of mobile owners.

According to Intersperience, 8% of UK adults buy through their mobile phones, while 21% intend to in the future. Comparatively, a smaller percentage (7%) of under-18s currently make purchases via mobile but 33% plan to in the future.

Our Mobile Planet data focuses specifically on smartphone users, with 28% of owners making purchases from their devices. Though, of those that do, 87% admit they do so infrequently.

Barriers to purchase on mobile

Both sources look into the numbers of people who are still hesitant when it comes to mobile commerce. The Intersperience research highlights that 37% of UK adults are not keen to buy via mobile, compared to just 11% who remain hesitant to purchase via PC. 

According to Google’s stats, 69% of smartphone users who do not buy via mobile simply prefer to use their PC or laptop for shopping. Other concerns included ‘doesn’t feel secure’ (34%) and complexity (9%). 

The mobile shopping assistant

Mobile is also clearly playing a big part on purchases made in shops. Our Mobile Planet data sees 24% of UK smartphone owners taking their phones shopping with them in order to compare prices and inform themselves about products.

Additionally, mobile devices are on the cusp of becoming more than an in-store information source, with the release of apps and features allowing users to make payments through their devices instead of using cash or card.

Despite 24% of UK adults being in agreement that mobile phones are more likely to be stolen than wallets, Intersperience data shows that 17% would be keen to use their devices for payments. Again, youngsters are more eager, with 25% of under-18s keen to replace their wallets with mobiles at the cash register.

From a marketing point of view, there is still a significant amount of catch-up to be done for mobile commerce to become as trusted as PC-based mobile commerce.

Also, many companies have yet to be convinced that they need a mobile strategy. Our recent Conversion Rate Optimization Report found that 70% of companies have yet to optimise their sites for mobile

But with the increased role of mobile when users are making purchases in shops, there is more scope to promote the positive connection between mobile and shopping, even before users are confident enough to actually make payments through their devices. 

This is of particular significance to well-established bricks and mortar stores, especially those who will be seeing a good number of smartphone-using shoppers coming through their doors over the next couple of months.