Pre-Purchase Research on Computers and Mobile Devices

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Computer, tablets, and smartphones: What is the primary device used during pre-purchase research?

Data Headlines

  • More than half (51%) of shoppers use multiple devices during their path-to-purchase.
  • Laptops are the most used devices for research (63%) and purchase (63%), followed by desktops (49%).
  • More than half (58%) use computers only for pre-purchase research.
  • Shoppers prefer desktops due to ease of viewing products (56%) and its bigger screen (55%)

Shoppers use more than one device during pre-purchase product research. More than half (51%) of US shoppers used more than one device. This is common among shoppers who engage across both online and offline touch points. They also tend to be on the move. Smartphones, in particular, are more suited for on the go shopping.

A reasonable proportion of consumers shopping across online and offline rely on one device. Single device shoppers account for more than two in five (45%) shoppers. They are likely to rely on only one device for all their online needs – not just shopping. They may own several devices, but have a primary device they prefer over others. More often than not this device tends to be a desktop or a laptop.

Computers are the most used device among US shoppers. More than three in five shoppers use laptops for research (63%) and buying (63%). Almost one in two use desktops for research (49%) and buying (49%). Computers have been the preferred device for shopping since the advent of digital. Smartphones and tablets are yet to replace the big screen. Two in five (41%) shoppers use smartphones for research. More than a third (38%) use it for buying. Even less use tablets for research (28%) and buying (25%).

Computers are also the primary research device among shoppers who researched and bought online. Almost four in five (79%) used computers to research. With more than half (58%) using computers only. Over one in ten (11%) rely on smartphones only. Another 5% reply on tablets only. One in three online buyers use more than one device to research. With only 5% using all three devices for pre-purchase research.

Shoppers find it easy to use computers when shopping due to its bigger screen. More than half (56%) say it is easier to see all available products on the big screen. Comparison is a key element of online shopping today. Shoppers compare different brands on price, features and other factors. This is key for shoppers who are already considering certain brands and want to make a final decision. If shoppers are considering 3 or more brands, it might get crowded on a small screen to compare them side by side.

More than half (55%) of US shoppers also find using a big screen easier in general. Ease of usage is a perception as result of the big screen’s ability to display a lot of information in one place. A key factor that adds to this perception is the ease with which shoppers can enter data on computers. Whether it’s typing a keyword on the search bar. Or entering personal information for checkout. Shoppers are more likely to trust in computers connected to reliable internet connections. Trust is low for mobile devices on patchy 3G and 4G networks. This adds to the perception that using a mobile is difficult.

How do shoppers use smartphones and tablets during path to purchase?

Data Headlines

  • Tablets and smartphones have increasingly become the preferred device to research brands and products.
  • More than two in five (45%) online shoppers browse as well as buy on mobile devices.
  • More than half of mobile shoppers (52%) research and buy on mobile only.
  • Almost one in five (19%) say mobile device experience is key when comparing products and services.
  • Shoppers faced challenges and sought assistance when using a mobile device to research (24%) or compare (27%).

Shopper’s preference to use mobile for research and buying has increased over time. In 2016, almost half (49%) of online shoppers said they prefer to research and buy on a tablet. Up from 43% in 2014. The share of shoppers who would prefer to buy using a smartphone increased from 41% to 45% in the same period. Preference to use desktop has remained flat during this time.

The growing preference for mobile is also reflected in shopping behaviour. More than one in two (52%) shoppers at least browse on their mobile device. The majority of these mobile shoppers (45%) go on to buy on their mobile devices. As more shoppers research and buy on mobile, a new mobile path-to-purchase has emerged.

The mobile path-to-purchase is quite different from the computer driven shopper journey. Shoppers are more likely to buy on their mobile devices if it is the only device used for research. More than half (52%) of those who bought on a mobile device, researched on a mobile device only. Mobile buyers are also more likely to use more than one device in their path-to-purchase. Only one in four computer shoppers used more than one device to research. More than three in ten (31%) mobile buyers used both computers and mobile to research.

While shoppers use mobile across path-to-purchase, not all stages are important. Mobile shoppers prioritise research experience more than transactional experience. Almost one in five (19%) say comparing products and services is key when using a mobile device. Another 16% say the research experience of searching for information is important. The online checkout process is another key part of the mobile path-to-purchase. More than one in ten (13%) prioritise the checkout process. It is a key stage where brands risk losing shoppers if the experience is not consistent. For instance, shoppers abandon transaction if the shipping cost is higher than expected.

The payment stage itself is not as significant because shoppers know what to expect. Mobile remains important post-purchase. More than a quarter (26%) of shoppers use mobile during product usage. Shoppers can now go online on their mobile device to look up tips on using the product. Shoppers who wish to return products also turn to their mobile devices. More than one in ten (16%) use a smartphone or tablet to try and return an item they are not satisfied with.

This is also where mobile shoppers face the most difficulty. More than two in five (43%) shoppers attempting to return a product could not do so and had to seek help. There is also opportunity to improve mobile experience during research and checkout. Around one in four shoppers had to seek help during these stages. Shoppers faced issues researching (24%), comparing (27%), and checking out (24%).

How do shoppers use smartphones to research and buy products?

Data Headlines

  • Adults 18-44 make up more than two in three (67%) shoppers who use smartphones for research
  • More than two in five (43%) use smartphones at the start of the shopping journey during product discovery
  • Around a third use smartphones for comparison (36%), advice (35%), and finding a store (32%)
  • Less than one in three (32%) shoppers use smartphones to buy offline from a physical store
  • Smartphone are more likely to be used by Gen Z and Millennials for price comparison (74%, 75%) and research (64%, 65%).
  • Using smartphones to find store location is common across Gen Z (55%), Millennials (65%), Gen X (52%), and Boomers (51%).
  • More than one in two (58%) shoppers use smartphone for product research at home
  • Three in four shoppers use smartphones at home to locate store and/or check opening times
  • Four in five shoppers lookup store locations and opening times on smartphones when on-the-go.
  • More than half of shoppers (55%) find and redeem coupons on their smartphone when in store.
  • Two in three shoppers locate stores and check timings on retailer mobile websites instead of retailer apps.
  • Apps are more likely to be used for shopping research by Millennials (70%) and Gen X (66%).

Shoppers who use smartphones to research products and brands are as likely to be male (53.4%) as female (46.6%). Age influences the likelihood of shoppers using smartphones for pre-purchase research. Adults 30-44 make up more than a third (36.6%) of shoppers who use smartphones for research. 18-29 year olds make up more than three in ten (31.7%) shoppers who research products on their smartphones. Over two in three (68%) shoppers who research on smartphone are under the age of 45.

The likelihood of pre-purchase research on smartphones increases with household income. A third of smartphone researchers are households earning $50K-$99K. Households earning less than $25K account for only 19.7% of smartphone researchers. Households earning $100K or more make up less than one in four (23.2%) smartphone researchers.

Shoppers use smartphones throughout their path-to-purchase. From early stage discovery to the final buy. Shoppers value smartphones the most at very beginning of their shopping journeys. More than two in five (43%) use smartphones during early stages of their path-to-purchase. Their goal is to seek inspiration and discover new options. Key activities at this stage include using search engines and browsing retailer websites.

Shoppers continue to use smartphone for research during their path-to-purchase. More than a third of them use the mobile device to compare choices (36%) and seek advice (35%). Comparing choices includes looking over product features, prices, delivery options among other things. Seeking advice can involve asking peers for their opinion. When online this can be reading online customer reviews or expert opinion.

Finally, under one in three (32%) shoppers also use smartphones to buy offline. This includes tasks like looking up store locations and checking availability. Some also use smartphone to place a click and collect order. Shoppers are likely to be on the go when using smartphones to buy. It is convenient to check availability in the nearest store and place a click and collect order. In comparison, when placing an online order they’d have to wait a few days for delivery.

Younger shoppers are heavy smartphones users during research. Millennials (75%) and Gen Z (74%) are most likely to compare prices on smartphones. Around two in three Millennials (65%) and Gen Z (64%) researchers shop around on smartphones. This could include evaluating product features, looking for offers, and reading reviews. When ready to buy, young shoppers are most likely to buy from their smartphones. More than one in five Millennials (21%) and Gen Z (23%) shoppers buy using their smartphones.

This does not mean that Gen X and Boomers don’t use smartphones for researching. Finding the nearest store location is a key task shoppers of all age groups are likely to do on smartphones. More than half of Gen Z (55%), Gen X (52%), and Boomers (51%) look up store location on their smartphones. With Millennials, more than two in five (46%) use smartphones to find the nearest store. Among older shoppers, Gen X are more likely to use smartphones for research. Almost two in three (65%) Gen X shoppers use smartphones to compare prices. More than half (51%) of Gen X shoppers also shop around on smartphones.

Shoppers use smartphones for research at home as well as when on-the-go. While smartphones are ideal on-the-go, today’s shoppers are more likely to use it when at home. In 2016, more than half (58%) of shoppers used smartphones at their homes to research products. In comparison, only three in ten (31%) shoppers used smartphones at home in 2013. Smartphone users today have access to faster 3G and 4G networks on the move. They also have access to content form Netflix. Media content takes priority over product research when on-the-go. Smartphone research at home also means shoppers can multitask. They can look up information while watching an ad on TV or talking to another member of the family.

Shoppers’ smartphone usage varies by location. When at home, three in four shoppers use smartphones to get store locations and timings. More than three in five (63%) use smartphones to read customer reviews when researching at home. Shoppers do a lot more on smartphones when at home. Finding a coupon code (56%), comparing prices (55%), and checking product availability (55%).

Shoppers carry out similar activities on smartphones when on-the-go as well. The top on-the-go shopping activity is to lookup store locations and opening times. Four in five shoppers do so. The extent of on-the-go smartphone usage for shopping drops to less than half for all other tasks. Finding a coupon (48%), read online reviews (45%), and compare prices across retailers (42%).

Apps and websites should include information relevant to the above tasks. Retailers and brand will have to adjust content for in-store research. More than half of shoppers (55%) find and redeem coupons on their smartphone when in store. This is likely because shoppers do research before a store visit or are looking for a quick deal. It is safe to assume that shoppers are most price conscious when researching in-store. More than half (51%) of in-store smartphone users compare prices. More than two in five (47%) read online reviews on their smartphones when inside a store. Focus on content around coupons, price, and reviews to engage shoppers inside a store.

When researching on smartphones, shoppers prefer mobile websites than apps. Two in three shoppers visit a retailer’s mobile website to locate a store or check store hours. In comparison, less than half (45%) do the same on a retailer app. When reading customer reviews, shoppers prefer mobile websites (50%) over mobile apps (31%). More than two in five (45%) shoppers visit a mobile website to compare prices. In comparison, less than three in ten (28%) do the same on mobile apps. Shoppers continue to prefer mobile websites over app for other tasks. Looking up coupons, checking availability online or in-store, and also buying a product. The only shopping activity where shopper prefer app is when they use their loyalty cards.

Younger shoppers are more likely to use apps for pre-purchase research. Seven in ten Millennials and two-thirds of Gen Xers use a smartphone app to research products. Less than two in five (39%) Boomers use a smartphone app to research brands and products.

How do shoppers research everyday categories on smartphones?

Data Headlines

  • Three in five people use smartphones to research restaurants before eating-out
  • Grocery shoppers (32%) are more likely to research on smartphones than retail (28%) or travel (17%) shoppers
  • Restaurant goers use email (18%), mobile sites (17%), and aggregator apps (16%) to research on smartphones
  • Email (28%), websites (25%), and social networks (20%) are top mobile touchpoints to research grocery
  • Grocery shoppers use smartphones to check list (72%), find digital coupons (65%), and look for discounts (57%)
  • Around two in five grocery shoppers use a mobile app for pre-purchase research
  • More than four in five (88%) grocery shoppers will use mobile apps if there is a chance for more discounts

A growing number of people carry out all their pre-purchase research on smartphones. This is most likely to happen when people are researching restaurants. Three in five people do their entire research on a smartphone before deciding on a restaurant to eat out. People looking for a restaurant are more likely to be on-the-go. They are also likely to have access to their smartphones.

Under one in three (32%) shoppers do all their grocery research on smartphones. It is common for shopper to buy grocery during the commute back home. More often than not, smartphones are the only device accessible during commute. When inside stores, shoppers can continue to research on their smartphones. The same applies to retail i.e. shopping for clothes, appliances etc from big box stores like Best Buy. More than one in four (28%) do all their research on a smartphone before buying from retailers.

Shoppers research restaurants across various mobile touchpoints. These include email (18%), mobile websites (17%), aggregator apps (16%), and social media (15%). Emails are likely to hold booking reservations and discount coupons. There could also be recommendations from friends, family and colleagues. When looking for new options, people visit restaurant websites on their smartphone browsers. The behaviour is likely because of a Google search that leads to the restaurant’s mobile website. It also highlights the importance of a mobile friendly websites for restaurants.

Aggregator apps are one of the most useful tools shoppers can use. People turn to restaurant aggregator apps for price comparison and reviews. They can also filter options by relevant factors – location, cuisine and others. Many aggregator apps allow users to make a booking, place a delivery order, or order a takeout for pickup. Finally, social media is a trusted channel to get suggestions and reviews from peers. People post images of food and drinks on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Others can find new restaurants around them by searching these social platforms.

Grocery researchers use email (28%), websites (25%), social (20%), and messengers (19%) on mobile. Email is most likely used to access coupons shoppers might already have. Grocery shoppers visit websites to search and browse for products. Social networks help them gather trusted recommendations from friends. Finally, messengers help shoppers connect with family and friends to update shopping lists.

Making and updating lists has long been a key part of the grocery shopping journey. Today household members can collaborate and track lists using smartphones. More than seven in ten (72%) mobile grocery shoppers make lists on their smartphones. This is more likely to be true among young shoppers in their twenties (76%) and female shoppers (76%).

Making and updating lists isn’t the only paper and pen tool that has carried over into smartphones. Shoppers can also find, save, and redeem digital coupons using their mobile devices. More than three in five (65%) mobile grocery shoppers use digital coupons on their websites. Coupons aren’t the only price saving tool grocery shoppers use on their smartphones. More than half (57%) of mobile grocery shoppers search for discounts on smartphones. Young shoppers 21-29 are most likely to search for discounts on smartphones (68%). Digital coupon usage is more prominent among older grocery shoppers 60 year old or above (72%).

Under one in four (24%) mobile grocery shoppers search recipes during pre-purchase research. This provides a contextual way for shoppers to prepare grocery lists. It is also an opportunity for retailers and brands to engage shoppers. They could allow shoppers to build lists around recipes. This can be a relevant touchpoint to influence shopper decisions.

While recipes provide context, discounts are the most attractive proposition amongst shoppers. This is also true when it comes to smartphones. Almost nine in ten (88%) mobile grocery shoppers use smartphones for extra discounts. Brands and retailers can send discounts via push notifications. Shoppers who see the notification will recall the app. They would then be more likely to use it when the need arises.


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