Pew: Cell Phones Have Huge Implications for Consumer Buying Behavior

More than half of adult cell phone owners used them to help make purchasing decisions while they were shopping during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Just over half (52%) used their phone for at least one of three reasons, and 1/3 used their phone specifically to get information online - either to look up or compare prices - while inside a store.

This according to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project study. Additional key findings include:

  1. 38% of cell owners used their phone to call a friend while they were in a store for advice about a purchase they were considering making
  2. 24% of cell owners used their phone to look up reviews of a product online while they were in a store
  3. 25% of adult cell owners used their phones to look up the price of a product online while they were in a store, to see if they could get a better price somewhere else


Examining the demographics, Pew researchers found that:

  1. Cell owners ages 18-49 are significantly more likely to use their phones for online product reviews than are cell owners ages 50 and older. Cell owners ages 65 and older are especially unlikely to do this-just 4% did so this holiday season.
  2. Urban and suburban cell owners are roughly twice as likely as rural cell owners to have recently used their phone to look up online reviews of a product they found in a physical store.
  3. Non-white cell owners are more likely than white cell owners to look up online product reviews, and those who have attended college are more likely to do so than those who have not.


Price matching and searching for online reviews went hand in hand, the Pew project researchers found. Of the 33% of cell phone owners who used their phone recently in a store to do one or the other, roughly half (about 17% of the overall group) engaged in both activities. As a result, the same demographic groups that use their cell phones to look up online product reviews are generally the same ones that use their phones to look up online price information, they noted.

A range of outcomes were cited by those who matched prices while out shopping:

  1. 37% decided to not purchase the product at all
  2. 35% purchased the product at that store
  3. 19% purchased the product online
  4. 8% purchased the product at another store


Based on these results, Pew researchers determined that 5% of all cell phone owners who purchased a product online during the 2011 holiday shopping season did so after looking up its price online from a physical store. Another 9% searched for the price of a product they found in a physical store but wound up purchasing at that store.

Written by Michael Standley at 11:00
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