Report: People Using Smartphones for Shopping, Not Buying

Nielsen says that smartphones are now 15% of the US handset market, while Forrester says it's 17%. Our data from 2009 show 15% as well. Previously Nielsen argued that smartphones would cross the 50% threshold by 2011. That's still optimistic I believe but they're grabbing a larger and larger share of handsets.

We know from our research and that of others that people are very enaged with their smartphone devices. Now Compete Inc has released some data from its Q3 2009 smartphone survey about shopping and "m-commerce" on these devices. Here are the top-level bullets:

  • 37% of smartphone owners have purchased something non-mobile with their handset in the past 6 months.
  • 19% of total smartphone owners have purchased music from their device, 14% have purchased books, DVDs, or video games and 12% have purchased movie tickets.
  • 41% of iPhone users and 43% of Android users are most likely to check sale prices at alternative locations from their mobile phones while they are shopping.
  • The second most likely activity is accessing consumer reviews, with 39% of iPhone owners and 31% of Android owners investigating reviews from their handset before they purchase.

Picture 115

The slide able suggests that people aren't willing to spend more than token amounts of money via smartphone purchases. This will change as people come to see the Internet on their smart devices as comparable to e-commerce online. However, most purchases do not occur online; they take place in stores. However the Internet influences those purchases. 

Picture 117

The smartphone is a bridge between the PC Internet and the larger physical world.

Much of the behavior in the slide immediately above is the same or substantially the same as what exists online today. The difference with smartphones is that people have them when they're standing directly in front of an item in a store. Accordingly people are looking for reviews, competitive price information, and coupons about products they want to buy. They're also trying to find stores and stores where they can pick up those products.

Finally here's the strategic takeaway:

8% of smartphone owners that tried to purchase a product on their device were unable to do so. 45% of those that abandoned the process reported that they did so because the site would not load, and an additional 38% left the site because it was not developed specifically for smartphone users.

So despite the webkit browsers that can render full websites, you still need a smartphone-optimized mobile website (or an app or both) for optimal user engagement, especially if you're trying to sell things.