U.K. Consumers Embrace Mobile for Holiday Shopping

Major British retailer Tesco reckons ten percent of online shoppers in the U.K. will make purchases via mobile devices over the Christmas period, based on research it conducted with 4,000 consumers across the country.

The trend, it said, reflects the increased proliferation of smartphone devices, and the fact that consumers’ “busy work schedules and hectic lives” are leaving them with less time to shop via their desktop or in store.

“For the first time this year we anticipate a significant amount of orders to be placed by customers using their mobile phones, because customers like the convenience of shopping on the go,” said Ian Crook, CMO for tesco.com. To prepare, Tesco relaunched its own mobile web presence earlier this month, which it says should help users more easily browse and purchase its products on the go.

“In October alone, we had over half a million people visit the Tesco Direct website using their mobile phones and in the run up to Christmas we’re expecting this number to surge,” Crook added.

Overall, the survey found 78 percent of consumers plan to conduct at least some of their Christmas shopping online this year, with 71 percent claiming to do so to avoid in-store checkout queues. Forty-four percent also said they use the Internet to track down the cheapest price for specific products.

Tesco isn’t the only online retailer looking to capitalize on mobile shoppers this holiday season. Last week Amazon.com launched a barcode-based Price Check application for the iPhone in the U.S., hoping to divert consumer spending from physical stores to the mobile web.

Both retailers can link users’ existing accounts – including payment and shipping information – to their mobile devices,  enabling them to sign in and transact relatively simply by entering an e-mail address and account password.

Despite the progress made by mobile commerce over the past twelve months, some suggest the use of mobile devices is more likely to influence or compliment in-store purchase behavior than replace it. “We see larger opportunity in mobile to influence offline sales than in contributing to online sales,” said Cathy Halligan, SVP of marketing and sales for PowerReviews, a social commerce software provider. “As such, the winners will be multi-channel retailers who make available product information, pricing, and in-stock information easily accessible through smartphones,” she added.

Halligan estimated 10 percent of U.S. consumers will use mobile devices to research product information between now and Christmas. “We have data that researching products via mobile to influence sales will be meaningful this holiday season, whereas transacting on mobile devices is interesting but not yet meaningful,” she said.

Tesco appears more upbeat about the transactional side of mobile, however, predicting “an influx or online orders through smartphones this Christmas,” particularly during today’s Cyber Monday sales events taking place both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., comScore has predicted an 11 percent increase in online retail spending over the holiday period this year, compared with 2010.

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