Study: Smartphones to Influence $689 Billion in Retail Store Sales by 2016

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According to Deloitte's study, 55% of consumers ages 14 and 34 years old indicated their smartphones have influenced their decision to make a purchase.

New York—Retailers have a good reason to pay attention to consumers’ “showrooming” or shopping in-store to view products and then comparison shopping (or even buying) on their handheld devices.

According to a new research by Deloitte released today, smartphones currently influence 5.1% of annual retail store sales. That translates into $159 billion in forecasted sales for this year.

The Deloitte study measures “mobile influence factor,” or the impact of smartphones on in-store sales driven by consumers’ store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or other mobile application use.

Using that measure, Deloitte anticipates mobile’s influence, based on consumers’ smartphone use, will grow to represent 19% of total store sales by 2016, amounting to $689 billion in mobile-influenced sales. By comparison, direct mobile commerce sales will pass the $30 billion mark by that time, according to industry estimates.

“Mobile devices’ influence on retail store sales has passed the rate at which consumers purchase through their devices today,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader. “Consumers’ store-related mobile activities are contributing to–not taking away from–in-store sales, and our research indicates that smartphone shoppers are 14% more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.

Smartphone Shoppers=More Frequent Purchasers

“This means that mobile is an important tool for retailers to incrementally drive traditional in-store sales, strengthening the relationship between retailer and consumer to increase engagement and loyalty,” Paul added.

To better understand the growing impact of mobile devices on the retail sector, Deloitte’s retail & distribution practice and Deloitte Digital conducted an in-depth survey of U.S. consumers about how they use their smartphones to shop today and their likelihood of using them in future buying decisions.

Nearly half (48%) of smartphone owners surveyed say their phones have influenced their decision to purchase an item in a store, and the study shows that consumers’ smartphone use tends to be highest at or near the point of purchase. Based on Deloitte’s survey, more than 6 out of 10 (61%) of smartphone owners who use their devices to shop have done so while shopping at the store, and more than half (52%) reach for their phones on the way to the store.

Nearly four out of 10 (37%) smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping application, and more than one-third (34%) used a retailer's mobile application.

Smartphone-toting consumers appear more likely to make a purchase than those who do not own one or do not use it to assist in-store shopping. When asked about their most recent shopping trip, nearly three-quarters (72%) of smartphone owners surveyed indicated they made a purchase on that day, compared with 63% of respondents who did not use a phone. Smartphone users were also more likely to eventually make a purchase: among those who did not buy anything on their last trip, 59% of those who used a smartphone eventually made a purchase, compared to only 22% of those who did not use one.

Wanted: Mobile Apps

Mobile applications appear to be the inroads to consumer engagement. Nearly four out of 10 (37%) smartphone owners surveyed who used a smartphone on their last shopping trip utilized a third-party mobile shopping application, and more than one-third (34%) used a retailer’s mobile application.

“Retailers that do not engage shoppers through specialized mobile applications or targeted smartphone-based promotions leave the door open for competitors to reach a customer who is standing in the retailer’s store and at the point of purchase,” said Kasey Lobaugh, principal and direct-to-consumer leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “To make the connection with consumers, retailers need to understand how mobile shoppers are willing to interact with their specific store category, format and merchandise, both inside and outside the store, and customize their mobile strategy around the shopper’s needs and experience.”

Mobile Shopping Accelerating Among Smartphone Owners

Smartphone adoption coupled with consumers’ propensity to use their devices for shopping also contributes to the growing mobile influence factor. As consumers buy smartphones, they are quick to tap their devices for shopping assistance. In fact, smartphone use for store-related shopping increasing 40% after the first six months of ownership, according to the survey.

“Once these consumers are on board, they consistently use their phones for 50 to 60% of their store shopping trips, depending on the store category,” said Lobaugh.

Interestingly, among the top categories where consumers consistently use their phones include most channels of retail–from mass merchants to department stores to specialty and warehouse clubs—to clothing, accessories and footwear (see chart).

Mobile Influence by Store Category

The mobile influence factor is strongest among younger shoppers, suggesting that as this segment ages, a retailer’s core customers will increasingly be comfortable using smartphones to shop. In Deloitte’s survey, nearly 7 out of 10 smartphone owners (67%) between 14 and 34 years old have used their devices to shop, and 55% indicate their smartphones have influenced their decision to make a purchase.

For more information about the mobile influence factor, including additional survey findings and methodology, please visit:

About the Survey

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between March 20 and 30. The survey polled a national sample of 1,041 random consumers and then augmented this sample with additional smartphone owners to reach a sample of 1,557 smartphone owners. The sample of smartphone owners has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.