Live from Internet Retailer 2011: Convenience top reason to shop with smartphones

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SAN DIEGO — Say there’s a customer hovering over a helmet in your store. In one hand, he’s clutching the helmet’s price tag, in the other, his mobile phone. According to research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, there’s a 75 percent chance that customer is using his phone to read online reviews of the helmet — or worse, to price-compare with your competitors.

“Mobile devices are becoming a vital part of online shopping,” says Jeff McKenna, a senior consultant with the Boston-based firm. McKenna discussed his firm’s May 2011 study findings at this year’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, held this week in San Diego. “Nearly half of smartphone owners and tablet owners use them to make purchases.”

And, whether your store is ready for it or not, the overall consensus among marketers is that this percentage of mobile shoppers will only grow larger — all the more reason to ramp up your retail mobile efforts. Research shows that mobile shopping is on the rise among both men and women, in all age groups. In addition, two-thirds of tablet (such as the iPad) owners are using their devices to shop online.

Many of the firm’s findings mirror those of Google’s own research, which you can read about in more detail here.

About half of mobile shoppers use a credit card as their preferred method of payment, while the other half is evenly split between using PayPal and debit cards. What’s interesting to note, however, is of these buyers, only one-third were concerned with identity theft or getting hacked while making a purchase — they’re more concerned with being able to shop on a moment’s notice. “We were quite surprised that convenience does trump security,” McKenna said. “There doesn’t seem to be much concern.”

That’s why, McKenna continued, the top common motivator for shopping via mobile device is convenience. “There’s a laziness factor,” he said. “There’s no need to get off the couch.”

Indeed, one survey respondent said that while at home, he was unmotivated to visit another room to use his computer to make a purchase because his smartphone was right at his side. “[These are] time-sensitive purchases,” McKenna said. “People just could not wait until they were at a network computer. They want to be able to make that purchase in the moment.”

Because mobile shopping is gaining momentum so quickly, McKenna advises new retailers to develop a mobile site before they develop a desktop website. But even if you’re a store without a mobile site, research shows that consumers are still willing to wade through hard-to-read websites and other niggling issues when shopping on a mobile device. “What ends up happening is [consumers] find that the convenience trumps those little problems,” McKenna said. “More often people are going to work through those issues.”

In the long run, however, it’s probably best to have a mobile site to make the shopping experience easier for your customers. “Across the board,” McKenna said, “consumers are finding that the convenience is something they want to enjoy going into the future.”

More from the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition:
SHOP TALK: Where to place your in-store pickup counter
Business tips for economic survival
Tips for competing against e-commerce giants
Consumers research online but prefer to buy local
Producing budget-conscious videos
Do your employees have a clue?