Pew: 25% of In-Store Shoppers Use Phones to Comparison Shop

More than half of consumers used their mobile devices during the holiday season to aid in purchase decisions while looking at physical products in stores. That’s according to a new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Of the 1,000-member survey group, 38 percent used their phones to call a friend while in a store to help make a decision; 24 percent used a phone to access product reviews; and 25 percent used a phone to look up the price of a product to see if they could get a better price somewhere else.

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Pew found some demographic patterns in its results. Urban and suburban adults were about twice as likely as rural mobile phone owners to look up online reviews while shopping in-store. Non-white adults were more likely than whites to look up product reviews, and adults who have gone to college were more likely to do so than those who didn’t.

Smith says one surprising finding was that high- and low-income adults are equally likely to use their phones to research products while in stores. “Everyone, it seems, is looking for a good deal on the perfect product,” said study author Aaron Smith, a senior research specialist at Pew Internet.

Not surprisingly, Pew also found younger adults – those ages 18 to 49 – are more likely to use phones to access online product reviews than their older counterparts.

As a result of their mobile research, Pew found 37 percent of respondents decided not to purchase the most recent project they considered with help from a phone; 35 percent purchased the product in that store; 19 percent purchased the product online; and 8 percent purchased the product at another store.

Pew did not specifically ask whether consumers who made a purchase online used their mobile devices to do so.

“The big implication is that consumers want the best product they can find at the lowest possible price, and they now have a tool in their pocket that helps them figure out the best way to reach that goal in real time – even if they have to wait to make their purchase, or go to another store that has a better price or product,” Smith said.

The study surveyed people age 18 and up about their mobile phone and shopping behavior during the 30-day period before and after Christmas. It was conducted January 5 through 8.

This marks the first time Pew asked this set of questions, so there is no comparable data from previous years.

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