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Study shows 29 percent smartphone owners use their phones as shopping companions

Nielsen Smartphone Study

A new study from Nielsen’s upcoming United States Digital Consumer Report states that 29 percent of all smartphone users utilize their mobile devices to aid in shopping-related activities, whether online or in stores. Are we surprised the numbers seem relatively low even though numerous apps have been created to help consumers do everything from compare prices, scan barcodes and read product reviews with just a tap and a swipe of a finger?

The report finds that smartphone owners use their phones for price comparison the most, with 38 percent checking prices online while they are browsing items in stores. This method makes sense, as online prices tend to be a bit cheaper if you don’t mind waiting for the item to arrive via mail. Shoppers also seem to prefer ordering items online after they have inspected the product in person to see what they should be anticipating, or if it’s even worth buying. The ability to test items out in stores is something apps cannot replicate despite the many videos and photo gallery previews.

Smartphone owners also like to window shop on their phones, as the study also finds 38 percent of users are highly likely to browse products on mobile apps and official online shops. And when they might be serious about purchasing something, 32 percent of smartphone owners prefer to read consumer reviews online before making the final decision. Compared to last year, retail apps have also doubled in downloads as the smartphone lifestyle become more standardized. Do these numbers contribute to mobile apps helping shoppers be more conscious about their purchases, or are the apps just making people more of an impulsive shopper since they target the mobile market? After all, the apps are made to be used on the go though one can certainly sit down and browse on the palms of their hands at home instead of on a more bulky desktop or laptop.

The least popular option of using smartphones to shop is actually paying for products with the phone. The study cites that only 18 percent of iOS and 13 percent of Android users are interested in using their phones as credit cards. It comes as no surprise, as the recent Google Wallet hack likely made consumers vary of leaving their credit card and bank account informations stored inside their phones. This is more apparent with Android users since the hack appeared on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, with 33 percent of users showing absolutely no interest in such technological convenience.

Though we noted that the numbers of smartphone shoppers are lower than we thought, retailers should still be worried as the trend is likely to continue uphill the more consumers switch to the smartphone lifestyle. Pretty soon, stores might only become a showroom display of what people can buy seamlessly on the web, or at the very least, a last-minute gift shop for the procrastinating types.