More Evidence of the Mobile-Distracted Shopper

New survey finds more than three-quarters of online shoppers use phones in-store

Author: eMarketer Editors

April 5, 2017

The evidence of mobile’s disruption of traditional retail keeps piling up.

The latest: A new study finding that more than three-quarters of digital shoppers use their mobile phones while shopping in-store.

The study is another in a lengthening line of research suggesting that a growing number of consumers simply want to be left alone with their phones. Last month, the International Council of Shopping Centers released data showing that roughly 60% of consumers expect that by 2020, they will prefer to be left alone in stores instead of engaging with a salesperson.

The newest survey comes from Salsify, which provides content management services for digital commerce. It found that fully 77% of shoppers use a mobile device while shopping in-store. By contrast, just 35% opt to speak to a salesperson if they have a question.

The tension between providing service and leaving customers alone is only likely to deepen over time, given the ways that younger people use their phones. As previously reported in eMarketer Retail, teens and young adults use their smartphones in-store more than the average consumer—and that usage doesn’t necessarily involve the purchases they may be considering, suggesting they are even less likely to want to be interrupted.

Younger users may be more likely than older ones to conduct nonshopping activities while in-store, but older users do it, too. A survey by inMarket conducted in September 2016 found that almost half of adults queried said their primary mobile activity while in-store was not shopping-related.

When in-store mobile activities are in fact related to shopping, they may take any number of forms. Many users are hunting for better prices or discounts, but nearly as many are conducting fairly traditional research in-store, too.

Data from a September 2016 survey by Bizrate Insights found that more than 40% of digital buyers say they use a smartphone in-store to compare prices or to look for coupons. But nearly as many said they looked at product ratings and reviews or gathered product details.