Does Mobile Shopping Help Or Hurt Physical Store Sales? Yes

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Mobile shopping was supposed to be lethal to brick-and-mortar retailing. But according to two new studies, it’s helping physical stores at least as much as it’s hurting. “Out on the streets, more people [who own smartphones] are going into stores and staying there longer while those who purchase online tend to favor online-only stores, based on two new studies,” mCommerceDaily reported October 13.

After tracking smartphones in and near stores and measuring data on tens of millions of US shopping sessions, retail analytics firm Euclid found that smartphone ownership correlates with more, not less, in-store shopping. Since last year, shopping time increased 18 percent, for example, from 22 to 26 minutes. More smartphone owners who pass by stores stop in – a total of 9 percent of sidewalk traffic. Fewer shoppers are walking out right after they walk in; the number of shoppers who left within five minutes of entering a store dropped by 2 percent. And nearly one in eight shoppers (12 percent) returned to a store within a 30-day period (hopefully, not to return the merchandise).

A Survey Monkey online survey of 1,000 smartphone owners, for Contact Solutions, had more good news for brick-and-mortar retailers: When smartphone owners have a choice between buying the same item online or in a store, a majority – 61 percent, to be specific – get in their cars and go to the store.

There was some bad news for physical retailers, too. Of all the smartphone owners who buy online (and that’s a lot), more than half (52 percent) do more than half of their buying with online-only retailers.

Ironically, mobile shopping apps may be doing more to hurt mobile sales than physical sales. That’s because they can come with certain shopping difficulties and frustrations that can arise when struggling to buy something on a mobile app; 39 percent of consumers surveyed reported “disappointment” over their inability to get help over a mobile app. Most of those disappointments lead to lost mobile sales – not only present sales but future ones. When struggling with a mobile app, a majority of shoppers – 51 percent – just close it and forget the shopping cart. A plurality – 40 percent – try to get help by going to the seller’s website on their desktops or laptops. One in five – 20 percent – stop using the app entirely. Slightly less than one-eighth – 12 percent – forget the app and go to the brick-and-mortar store, which is fine if you’re not an online-only merchant and have stores everywhere (otherwise, somewhat less than ideal). Only 8 percent of consumers shopping on their smartphones will use those phones to call customer service.

With the holiday shopping season about to start, as retailers put the last touches on getting their advertising, their promotions, their merchandise mix and their mobile apps in place, invest some time in testing those apps on real consumers, to make sure that they can use them as easily as your IT folks can. It would be a shame to put so much into making a sale, only to blow it at the last moment with a screen touch.

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