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Smartphones and m-coupons usher in radical shake up of Christmas shopping habits, study suggests

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The way UK consumers shopped for presents this Christmas was completely different to any previous year, according to the annual survey by international consumer research specialist Intersperience – with the smartphone and mobile coupons stealing the show.

With continued worries about the economic situation, people went bargain hunting early, and made more use of discount coupons and smartphones to compare prices in order to get the cheapest deal, finds the study.

“This is the year that the mobile phone changed the way we shop,” said Intersperience chief executive Paul Hudson. “With people very conscious of their reduced spending power this year, they have chosen the latest technology to help them find the best deals.

“One in three used their phones to check competitor prices, look for reviews of products, search ratings and check specifications. Almost 20% of people called up rivals’ websites while standing in a high street store looking at the item they wanted to buy. And 30% of them went on to purchase those gifts online from somebody else’s website while standing in the shop.”

“Discount coupons were much in evidence and we found people have taken to seeking out bargains at all times of the year, buying presents cheaply off-season and keeping them hidden until December. We are as a nation, in effect, Christmas shopping all-year round now.”

Mobile phones were a major factor in a general pattern of increased online sales. The average amount spent by each internet shopper was up £25 to £188, while the average spent in stores dropped £13 to £166 per customer.

While the amount spent was up, the proportion of the population buying online actually fell from 81% in 2010 to 72%. More than half of internet shoppers, 51%, said they experienced problems with stock shortages or delays in delivery – and almost 1 in 10 said their gifts did not arrive by Christmas Day.

Intersperience chief executive Paul Hudson said: “Although the proportion of people buying online has fallen, the number of transactions per shopper has increased and the value of goods bought online has also risen. That means there has been overall headline growth in online sales.”

“It tends to be the over-25s who prefer to purchase presents online. Younger consumers use the internet and their smart phones for research but more of them buy in stores. When we asked them why, 41% said they worried about order delivery, a far higher figure than among older consumers.”

The trend towards a Mobile Christmas came against a backdrop of continued uncertainty about the economic outlook. Some 65% of consumers said the economic situation affected their Christmas spending, compared to 48% in 2010.

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