Study: Smartphone Users Ready to Buy -- Offline

This morning I received a message in my in-box with the subject line: "Mobile commerce has really arrived." In the associated article a range of data were cited to argue that consumers were doing more and more e-commerce on their smartphones.

While it's true that e-commerce over tablets and smartphones is growing we should be clear about what's really going on out in the real world. Smartphones are widely used by consumers as part of their shopping and purchase research -- between 60% and 80% (or more) use them in stores for product and price lookups.

Marketers routinely undervalue and misunderstand the now critical role of mobile in consumer purchase activity. Part of the reason is tracking/attribution: smartphone owners overwhelmingly convert offline (or on PCs) and much of that behavior is simply not captured. 

New research from comScore, Neustar and 15 Miles reinforces this basic point. The data are based on a December survey and behavioral observation of users. The sample size was just under 5,000 US adults. 

comScore Local Search Study

Source: comScore, Neustar Localeze, 15 Miles

The study found that 78% of local searches conducted on smartphones resulted in a purchase vs. 64% on tablets and 61% on PCs. 

The majority of those purchases (76%) happened the same day and most within "a few hours" of the lookup. This reflects the immediacy of the mobile search user's need. But here's the critical point: Almost 90 percent of those purchases happened offline, in a physical store (73 percent) or on the phone (16 percent). Eleven percent were e-commerce transactions. 

Actual transaction data (as opposed to self-reported survey data) from e-commerce software provider ShopVisible found that 85% of e-commerce transactions in 2013 were PC based, only 4% came from smartphones.

Marketers need to recognize that most smartphone users are going to consult their mobile devices throughout the purchase cycle but largely aren't going to complete a transaction on that device. If they don't understand this behavior and account for it they're going to fundamentally misunderstand the role of mobile and undervalue it significantly.

This is partly why online-to-offline analytics/tracking is such an important development -- and one that we'll be exploring in depth at Place 2014.