Consumers own multiple devices on which they can shop — laptops, smartphones, desktops, tablets and wearables. So how are they using them to browse and buy? Bronto sought to find out by commissioning Ipsos to survey 1,000 U.S. adults with access to at least one device. The results are both predictable — e.g., older individuals purchase on desktops more often than younger consumers — and startling — e.g., smartphones increasingly are being used not just for browsing, but for buying.
There's not a distinct difference in browsing vs. buying patterns. There was a time when consumers might use a smartphone to browse for items (perhaps doing a little price checking in-store), but when it was time to buy, they turned to devices with larger screens. That’s changing. People are buying and browsing from all devices. Surveyed consumers own an average of 2.9 devices for their computing and internet needs, and use 1.9 devices for shopping. Furthermore, a majority of those surveyed report that they're shopping more frequently on each device than they were a year ago. No device has a significant proportion of users who are shopping less on it.
Here are some takeaways that online marketers can put into action:
1. If you haven’t made your website mobile friendly, don’t delay. About half of smartphone owners use the device to shop, and smartphone ownership in the U.S. has jumped from 51 percent to 75 percent in the three years that we’ve done this survey. Furthermore, 64 percent of those with a smartphone report shopping on the device more frequently this year than last year.
At minimum, you should be making it easy to browse and buy from a smartphone. The experience has to be seamless in another way as well. If our surveyed consumers use an average of 1.9 devices for shopping, it's likely they'll sometimes place an item in a cart on one device and then go to complete the sale on another device. Consumers expect that retailers will recognize them no matter which device they use; that's not always the case. Some retailers don’t have databases talking to each other or they aren’t ID’ing customers in a way that lets them understand that the cart Susan started when she was browsing on her smartphone belongs to the Susan that just logged in from her laptop.
2. Pay attention to how your prime demographic shops. Mobile responsiveness is a somewhat less critical need for retailers that sell primarily to an older demographic. Only 19 percent of people age 55-64 use their smartphones to make purchases, and it's just 9 percent for those 65 and older. The current age-dividing line for consumers purchasing on smartphones is around 45. Below age 45, 58 percent of shoppers have made a purchase using a smartphone, but from 45 to 54, that number plummets to 31 percent. On the flip side, younger shoppers, including 75 percent of those 18-24 years old, still shop from laptops. Mobile-first is an appropriate option for commerce marketers targeting this group, but designs that work well on laptops, tablets and desktops still matter.
3. Keep an eye on these statistics: Thirty percent of our respondents said they visited physical stores less this year, while 29 percent said they visited physical stores more often. Certain demographic groups account for the changes in both directions. Forty-three percent of those shopping more often in stores are age 25-34. Those with a household income under $75,000 are also reporting a higher frequency of in-store shopping.
On the flip side, 36 percent of those age 18-24 are shopping less often in brick-and-mortar stores, and 35 percent of those with household incomes above $100,000 are also reporting fewer visits to stores.
For omnichannel retailers, this data should provoke discussion on how to talk to consumers who prefer the in-store experience vs. those who don’t. Mastering the process of enabling easy pickups and returns could be a sales booster, for example. For online-only retailers that appeal to shoppers who are reducing their reliance on physical stores, ensure you're using the best technologies and most sophisticated marketing approaches to attract those online-first shoppers.
Consumer tastes and preferences evolve, and not always in the way we would imagine. Mobile-friendly design isn't a trend; it’s a must. Understanding demographic differences is critical for segmenting your messaging successfully, and the emergence of online-first shoppers balanced by those with a preference for the physical stores provide some interesting challenges for today’s e-commerce marketer.
Whether these trends continue, one thing is certain: Commerce marketers must create a seamless experience, regardless of the device or channel a consumer prefers when they shop.
Susan Wall is the vice president of marketing at Bronto Software, a cloud-based marketing automation software provider.
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