How Shoppers Use Smartphones (and How You Can Influence Them)

With the choice of handsets multiplying and mobile phone networks making them ever more accessible, the adoption of smartphones in the UK continues apace. Currently, about 1/3 of phones owned by adults in the UK are smartphones. Analysts predict this will increase to 75% by 2015.With smartphones achieving such rapid penetration, it was inevitable they would influence the way people shop. However, these influences are more subtle than some statistics would suggest - people aren't dispensing with their PCs and laptops just yet.  However, at certain stages of the purchase cycle, smartphones are proving to be very important indeed, as recent research from Google and Ipsos OTX on US smartphone usage confirms.For their owners, smartphones are their 'always on' companions - 89% of the Google/Ipsos survey used their phones throughout the day. In terms of activities, 81% of the survey had used their phone for internet browsing in the past week whilst 68% had used an app.Search engines were the most popular sites to visit, having been frequented in the past week by  77% of the sample. And the motivation?  Convenience and speed  - getting information 'on the go' (72%), when not sitting in front of a computer (65%) and when something needed to be searched for as quickly as possible (47%).Those searches tend to happen at the 'sharp end' of the purchase cycle. 9 out of 10 searchers took action as a result of their mobile search and just over half went onto make purchases.Actions Taken After Mobile SearchIn terms of the specifics of using mobile search and browsing when shopping, 79% of the sample used their phone to support general shopping activities, whilst 70% used it for shopping in-store.  The most popular activities included locating a retailer (54%), comparing prices (49%), calling a retailer (46%), reading product info and reviews (44%) and looking for promotions and coupons (40%). 74% had made a purchase as a result of using their smartphone, and 76% of those purchases had taken place in store.How Smartphones Support the Shopping ExperienceSo its clear from the research that for many smartphone users, their phone is bringing the best of the web to their  'bricks & mortar' shopping experience.  Whilst the PC probably still dominates the early research phases of the purchase cycle, the smartphone is being used close to the purchase decision to locate stores, look up product information, search for offers and confer with friends.  And it's role is more likely to be in support of an offline purchase, or an online PC purchase, rather than a purchase using the smartphone itself - at present, at least.Purchase Channels for Smartphone ShoppersThe research underlines the importance of getting mobile search strategy right, and of delivering a mobile site which offers consumers what they really want - actionable store location information, concise product descriptions and reviews, and discounts and offers that can be redeemed in store.But it also highlights the fact that mobile needs to be integrated into every strand of marketing strategy. The research found that the greatest driver of mobile search activity was traditional media - perhaps unsurprising considering the frequency with which smartphones are used when consuming other media.  This represents an opportunity for brands to turn interest created in their offline media activities into immediate action by offering mobile calls to action such as mobile-optimised sites and QR codes.Integrating mobile into marketing strategy clearly offers numerous advantages to retailers in terms of driving store footfall and purchases. However, mobile also delivers consumers an unprecedented amount of power given the information they now have at their fingertips whilst in-store. However, it's a challenge that retailers will have to rise to if they want to thrive in the smartphone era.