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The role of mobile in multichannel purchasing

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Online and mobile channels are gaining traction, whilst the number of consumers using more ‘traditional’ channels – such as catalogues and call centres – is dropping significantly year on year, finds a study by PortalTech into multichannel purchasing.

Mobile looks set to continue to grow, as almost half (44%) of smartphone owners expect to use their devices more when shopping and browsing over the coming months, with one third (31%) claiming they will make a purchase.

According to the survey – conducted in March 2012 among 1008 responses, with 506 completed by smartphone owners and 500 by non-smartphone owners – shopping via a call centre has seen a big decrease overall, especially with smartphone owners: 82.5% of smartphone owners claim to never use the channel, compared to 66% this time last year. The number of consumers shopping via catalogue has once again dropped year on year: just 3% of consumer shop through catalogues on a regular basis (weekly), a number which has halved since last year.

Smartphone owners shopping via mobile sites and apps had stayed fairly consistent levels since this time last year, suggesting that it is regular mobile shoppers who are driving the growth in the channel. The number of consumers browsing and using call centres to shop has significantly decreased over the past 12 months; 82% say that they never use the platform to browse, compared with 77% last year.

The number of smartphone owners using mobile apps to browse has significantly increased year-on year; Almost a quarter (23%) of device owners are using mobile apps on a weekly basis to browse for products. Past research suggests that mobile apps are used by more engaged and loyal customers and therefore these results suggest that these customers are using apps on a regular basis to ‘check-in’ with their favourite retailers.

The number of smartphone owners using their mobile to browse sites on a less regular basis has almost doubled over the past year; 5% of smartphone owners claim to browse this way every 4-6 months, while this number was just 3% one year ago.

More and more smartphone owners are purchasing footwear products through their mobile compared to last year; Mobile app use has more than doubled from 2% to 5%, with mobile site rates doubling from 3% to 6%.

Consumers are also purchasing more jewellery from their mobile phones; mobile site purchases have more than doubled from 4% to 9% whilst app purchases have increased from 3% to 4%. There is also similar growth in the number of people browsing jewellery products from their phones: mobile site browsing has grown from 9% to 14%, whilst mobile app browsing has increased from 5% to 7%.

Furniture and homeware retailers have seen an increase in the number of orders through a mobile site: over 6% of consumers now shop via this channel compared to 4% one year ago. DIY and gardening as seen a big rise in the number of mobile customers: almost 11% are now purchasing through a mobile site, almost tripling from the 4% this time last year. There has also been a significant increase the number of smartphone owners using mobile apps to browse DIY and gardening products; increasing from 4% to 6.5% over the course of the year.

Mobile purchases for travel and tickets has almost doubled year on year: almost 10% of smartphone owners are using the channel to make a purchase today compared with 6% a year ago. Online web channels have gained significant traction in most product areas, except household supplies and food and drink, where it appears consumer still prefer to shop in-store. The most popular categories to shop online remain Books, CDs & DVDs and Gifts.

Security remains one of the most influential factors for mobile shoppers. Other factors that mobile shoppers rate highly include clear navigational links, quick browsing and fast loading images, once again demonstrating that mobile shoppers rate functionality over style.

Mobile shoppers seem less concerned with product availability information, with a rise in the number of rating this factor as less influential.

There has been an increase in the number of people not making a purchase through a mobile app because they were just browsing; growing from 13% to 17% year on year and is most probably related to the number of non-transactional mobile apps currently on the market. It also suggests that if these apps were to be given transactional functionality, then more smartphone owners may be encouraged to make a purchase.

Almost half (44%) of smartphone owners expect to use their devices more for shopping and browsing in the near future, with a third (31%) claiming that will go on to make more purchases through their device.

Of the non-smartphone owners surveyed, 17% are certain that they will upgrade to a smartphone device over the next 12 months. Of these, 60% expect to use their new mobiles to shop and browse. Only 5% said they definitely wouldn’t use their device for shopping and browsing, suggesting that there is still room for considerable growth within mobile channels.

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