Five Non-Obvious Things This Google Study Reveals About Smartphone Shopping

Google’s recent report on smartphone shopping habits shows that, yes, people are pricing out goods on their iPhone. But what else are they doing with mobile devices in-store?

Five Non-Obvious Things This Google Study Reveals About Smartphone Shopping

Walk into any appliance store and you get it: People are using their phones to look up product details, scan reviews, and match prices. You know it’s common, and you know that “showrooming” is a tricky but omnipresent part of retail culture. So what else is new?


Google and its Shopper Marketing Council are out with a research study today, “Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices,” which quantifies quite a few behaviors you already knew about. Customers desperately seeking store hours and phone numbers? You know it–as evidenced by an entire Tumblr about bad restaurant websites. And Google is always going to highlight the need for mobile sites and promotions. But there are also some surprising bits of data to ponder, gleaned from surveys of more than 1,500 self-professed smartphone shoppers. Here are a few of the more counterintuitive and future-facing findings in Google’s study.

  1. The bigger the item, the more it’s smartphone scanned: At least among the 1,507 survey respondents in this study. Ninety-seven percent referred to their smartphone while browsing big buys, according to Google and its marketing partners. Those who were “frequent smartphone shoppers” spent 40% more on appliances. And 55% of appliance shoppers sought the web’s advice rather than ask an associate, the highest amount of any category.

  2. Everybody’s checking prices: Google asks retail stores to be ready with a price-matching plan, or at least a response, and for good reason. “In-store price comparisons are the most common shopping activity across all categories,” Google’s report reads. Among appliance shoppers, 74% are checking elsewhere. That number declines as you head down in price categories: 62% of baby care shoppers, 46% health and beauty, and 36% in grocery stores.

  3. Store apps? Not doing much: In the hierarchy of phone tools shoppers use while researching purposes, it’s 82% search engines, 62% store websites, 50% brand websites, and then down, way down, to 21% using dedicated store apps. That lineup holds true for finding where goods are sold, price matching, and finding coupons or offers. (Although our Co.Labs and Target Retail Accelerator aims to change that.)

  4. It’s not money, it’s time: It’s easy to miss a small-scale, three-bar chart in Google’s 37-page chart. But note that, when asked what things they like most about using their smartphone to help in-store shopping, “Saves me time” was the pick for 51% of those surveyed. “Saves me money” drew 44% of respondents, and “Makes life easier,” somehow segmented from saving time, was 42%. In other words: Retailers who help customers use their phones to save time, rather than always winning the race to the lowest price, can prevail.

  5. Customers want what Google suggests: To adjust to the new reality of people treating their phones like personal shoppers, Google suggests a number of strategies–most of them in the realm of Advance Common Sense. “In addition to having a mobile website, businesses should use it to prominently display retail locations and phone numbers.” Hard to disagree. And: “Offering expert service from salespeople or interactive product demos can help distinguish your in-store experience from online shopping.” Indeed!

Photo by Digital Cat on Flickr

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Freelance writer, In Beta co-host, TEDxBuffalo founder, author of The Complete Android Guide.