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Mobile Shopper

Key Facts

  • Nielsen reports that half of cell phone owners use a smartphone. It also notes that in the first three months of 2012, more than two-thirds of people who got a new device chose a smartphone rather than a standard cell phone.1
  • A study from comScore shows that half of online buyers who own a smartphone have used them to shop, and 62 percent who own a tablet have used their tablets to shop.3
  • In a 2011 Insight Express study, 67 percent of men said they use their tablet to shop or purchase items each week, while 50 percent of women said the same.5
  • According to Insight Express, 81 percent of smartphone owners said it was either important or very important that retailers make information available via mobile.4
  • PayPal's mobile Express Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard checkout products make checking out with a mobile device easy.

Who is a Mobile Shopper?

From keeping time to making schedules, many of us count on our smartphones and tablets to perform a variety of tasks throughout the day. It’s second nature for a lot of people to take out their phones when scheduling a meeting or looking for the nearest taco joint. In that same vein, many people are shopping on mobile devices because doing so is just so convenient. Whether they’re at home unwinding or waiting at the doctor’s office, most people keep their tablets or phones nearby, so turning to them when it’s time to buy that new set of golf clubs is becoming more common. In this article, we’ll examine who these mobile shoppers are and how they’re shopping, giving you some insight into how important they are in the consumer world and why your business will want to reach them.

Who’s using smartphones and tablets?

The potential market for mobile shoppers is as big as the group of people who use a smartphone or tablet (or both), and that number is huge. A growing number of people are choosing to use smartphones, which are capable of connecting to the Internet. Nielsen reports that half of cell phone owners use a smartphone.1 It also notes that in the first three months of 2012, more than two-thirds of people who got a new device chose a smartphone rather than a standard cell phone.1 So you can see how the pool of smartphone owners is likely to get even bigger in the coming years. In fact, in a 2012 study, comScore estimates that there will be more than 7.1 billion mobile devices in use by 2015.

Add tablet adoption to that mix, and the number is even larger. The Pew Research Center reported earlier this year that fully 19 percent of adults in the U.S. own a tablet, such as an iPad or Kindle Fire.2 This study also shows that 31 percent of college graduates own a tablet, while 36 percent of adults making more than $75,000 a year have one – both attractive consumer categories. In short, your business shouldn’t ignore the number of people who could be shopping or researching products on their phones or tablets or the revenue they could bring.

A profile of mobile shoppers

So who’s using these mobile devices to make purchases and what are their buying habits? A study from comScore shows that half of online buyers who own a smartphone have used them to shop, and 62 percent who own a tablet have used their tablets to shop.3 These numbers show that those who are already likely to buy online are increasingly willing to do so on their mobile devices. Think about your own mobile device usage. Where once you would have had to wait to fire up your desktop system to send an email, now you might turn to your smartphone that’s always on and already at hand. It’s not hard to see how habits may be changing in regard to shopping, as well.

And while convenience is a big factor, don’t let the term “mobile shopper” make you think all this shopping is happening on the go. The same study from comScore shows that 50 percent of these shoppers did their shopping while at home.3 (Interestingly, two-thirds were watching TV while shopping. Multitasking at its best.) These numbers also point to the “at hand factor.” While these shoppers may own a laptop or desktop computer, they’re looking to the mobile devices they already have nearby for searches and shopping.

Currently, mobile shoppers are slightly more likely to be male. For instance, a study from InsightExpress shows that during the 2011 holiday shopping season, 53 percent of men ages 18 to 29 reported using their mobile phones to help them shop while in a store, compared to 26 percent of women in the same age group.4According to InsightExpress, men are also slightly more likely to shop on a tablet.5 In a 2011 study, 67 percent of men said they use their tablet to shop or purchase items each week, while 50 percent of women (still a significant number) said the same.5

So what are these shoppers buying? Not surprisingly, a lot of them are buying digital products such as e-books or ringtones.6 It makes sense to purchase a ringtone you’re going to use on your phone from your phone.

Beyond the more obvious categories, shoppers are also buying a variety of other items. comScore reports6the top products smartphone buyers have purchased on their phones are:

  • Clothes (37%)
  • Tickets (35%)
  • Daily deals (34%)
  • Gift certificates (34%)
  • Electronics (32%)

And there are plenty of products in between, from physical books (26%) to sports and fitness items (19%). So whatever you happen to be selling, there’s a good chance your customers will be willing to buy it on their mobile device.

How can you reach them?

The challenge for businesses is to reach this growing population of mobile shoppers. You want to make your widgets available to anyone who wants to purchase them, don’t you? An important step is to make your online store mobile-friendly. According to InsightExpress, 81 percent of smartphone owners said it was either important or very important that retailers make information available via mobile.4 No matter how good your widgets are, mobile shoppers won’t find them if you don’t optimize you website for mobile. Mobile optimization means making your site easy to view and navigate on the smaller screens that come with mobile devices.

Part of mobile optimization is implementing a checkout process that encourages shoppers to finish a transaction and not, in a worst-case scenario, abandon the transaction completely. PayPal’s mobile Express Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard checkout products make it easy. With either product in place, mobile shoppers will be able to check out without hassle, as the process is automatically formatted to match a shopper’s specific device. In fact, PayPal mobile payments are expected to reach $10 billion this year.

To help users take advantage of the rise in mobile device usage, PayPal also offers a PayPal Mobile app, which lets users send and receive money, and PayPal Here™. PayPal Here lets you turn your smartphone or tablet into a payment system with a free card reader and app. PayPal can help you take advantage of the popularity of these devices, both to accept payments and encourage mobile shoppers to use your site. And as you’ve seen, it’s an important group to reach.

Male or female, at home or on the go, more people are opting to shop and/or buy on their phones or tablets. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why your business will want to reach this growing segment of shoppers.

1 "Nielsen Mobile Insights," Nielsen, February 2012

2 "Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period," Lee Rainie Director, Pew Internet Project, January 2012

3 “The Multi-Device Mobile Shopper,” comScore, June 2012

4 "1Q2012 Digital Consumer Portrait," Insight Express, March 2012

5 "InsightExpress’ Mobile Consumer Research," InsightExpress, June, 2011

6 "comScore Mobile Retail Advisor Report," comScore, December 2011