A new Pew survey (n=1,003 US adults) found that 58% of all mobile phone owners (feature + smartphones) used their handsets as part of in-store shopping during holiday 2012. More specifically, 72% of smartphone owners did so. Google research and InsightExpress have found even higher smartphone numbers: 82% to 90%+.
What kinds of things did these mobile phone owners do in stores? Mostly they called other people, but they also checked prices and product reviews.
Pew says 46% of all mobile users called others to get input on a purchase; 28% looked at product reviews and 27% compared prices on their phones (presumably there was some overlap among the categories). Of those who conducted price comparisons, roughly 48% didn't buy in the store, while 46% did make a purchase:
Interpreting these data is tricky. That's because we don't really know the mindset of these people when they entered the store. Accordingly we don't know the full impact of the pricing information they discovered.
We can make the assumption that 64% of these respondents (of the 27%) had some level of existing purchase intent when they went to the store -- because they ultimately did make a purchase. As mentioned, 46% percent bought at the store and 18% bought elsewhere (another store, online).
Another way to interpret these data is to say that 48% of the the people who did in-store mobile price checks decided not to buy there (my headline). It's probably safe to infer that at least 18% of these people were negatively swayed by the price data they saw on their phones -- they bought online or at another store -- although the actual number may be quite a bit higher and include some or all of the 30% who decided not to buy at all.
We don't have any sense of how this price-check group compares with the larger survey population. Did the larger group buy at higher or lower rates than the price checkers? We don't know.
One can see what one wants in these data. Without a sense of what people were thinking ahead of time we can really only guess at the full impact of in-store mobile phone usage. Yet it's clear from the totality of available information that "showrooming" is a real thing and that retailers need to aggressively address it.