Not Just for Talking: Nearly 40% of U.S. Adult Mobile Phone Owners Say Making Purchases via their Device is Important, as Phone is Seen Increasingly as a Commerce Tool

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A new Harris Poll (commissioned by Placecast) shows that Americans are eagerly adopting the mobile phone for all aspects of shopping, from product research to purchase via the device. The poll revealed that 20 percent of all adult mobile phone users (who own smartphones or standard cell phones) said they’d made an online purchase using their phones in the past year. Americans are also increasingly interested in text-message marketing.

Consumer interest in making purchases via their mobile phones has grown considerably in the past 2 years

In just two years, we saw that interest in making purchase via mobile increased by eight percent – meaning that millions of Americans are recognizing the convenience of using their phones for shopping.

Today Placecast is announcing results of a survey which reveals that Americans are eagerly adopting the mobile phone for all aspects of shopping, from product research to purchase via the device. The poll revealed that 20 percent of all adult mobile phone users (who own smartphones or standard cell phones) – representing about 39 million* Americans – said they’d made an online purchase using their phones in the past year. The results come from the third wave of a poll commissioned by Placecast and conducted online by Harris Interactive in February.

Purchase rates among smartphone owners was significantly higher than purchase rates among those who own a standard cell phone: 34 percent of smartphone owners have made an online purchase on their device in the past year, versus 20 percent of standard phone owners. Overall interest in using phones for purchases has grown by 8 percentage points in the past two years, with 38% of all mobile phone owners saying it is at least somewhat important. Here again, smartphone owners feel even more strongly: 59 percent say it is at least somewhat important to be able to make a purchase on their device.

U.S. adults also displayed greater receptivity to text message marketing, with more than three out of ten mobile phone owners who do not already receive text alerts from companies saying they’d be interested in receiving messages from brands, provided they’d opted-into the service. This indicates that 64 million adults* in the U.S. are open to this type of mobile marketing. This is an increase of 5 percentage points from when this question was asked in December, 2010.

This research marks the third survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Placecast – similar studies were conducted in summer of 2009 and winter of 2010. The results collectively make up a series called ‘The Alert Shopper’, a tracking study conducted to understand shifting consumer behavior around mobile shopping. 2262 adults, from a nationally representative sample, were surveyed in February 2012. 83 percent of the U.S. adult population reported that they own a mobile phone (either a smartphone or standard cell phone) which is in line with Nielsen’s projections of overall mobile phone penetration in the US.

Overall, the survey shows that Americans are more interested than ever before in all aspects of mobile commerce – also called “m-commerce.” Fifty percent of smartphone owners indicated they had used a GPS/mapping app to find a retail location in the past year, 44 percent had accessed the website of a retailer where they typically shop from their phones, and 34 percent had downloaded a retailer’s app of which they typically shop. An equal number (24 percent) had either searched for a coupon on their device to use at checkout, in a physical store, or used a barcode scanning app to comparison shop.

Usage of phones for commerce activities is most pronounced among smartphone owners (now at 50 percent of all mobile phone owners according to March 2012 Nielsen statistics). M-commerce also occurs among standard phone owners, where, despite the limitation of the phone, 13 percent had accessed a retailer website.

In 2010, “The Alert Shopper” survey found that 30 percent of mobile phone owners responded that it was at least somewhat important to be able to use their phones to make a purchase; in 2012, that number increased to 38 percent. This eight point increase shows that approximately 16 million more Americans are interested in m-commerce today, compared to just two years ago.

“Just as purchases of smartphones have been booming in recent years, so too have purchases using smartphones," says Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman. "In just two years, we saw that interest in making purchase via mobile increased by eight percent – meaning that millions of Americans are recognizing the convenience of using their phones for shopping. Retailers that realize the potential of mobile will be able to reach consumers in an incredibly personal way, cultivate a relationship with them, and increase their overall sales.”

The poll also points to the huge opportunity that mobile text marketing represents for marketers. Texting continues to be considered the most important activity done on phones, with the percentage of participants who reported that texting is extremely/very important to them as follows:

Among smartphone owners: 67 percent
Among standard mobile phone owners: 35 percent

Comparatively, the percentage of participants who reported accessing the internet on their phones as extremely/very important to them was lower than the text messaging data:

Among smartphone owners: 60 percent
Among standard mobile phone owners: 15 percent

Currently, only four percent of mobile users receive marketing messages via text; however, 33 percent of U.S. mobile phone users who do not already receive these messages said they are at least somewhat interested in such messages, provided they gave permission. When applied to the number of US adult mobile phone subscribers, this data indicates that approximately 64 million* Americans would be interested in this sort of marketing.

The poll also showed that those who currently receive text promotions reported that these messages make a strong impact: nearly one out of three said they are more likely to visit the store as a result, while one in four are more likely to purchase the product promoted in the store as a result.

The importance of mobile offers to the mobile payments ecosystem is becoming a significant topic for credit card companies, financial institutions, and carriers, as they recognize the potential for mobile marketing to drive commerce, both in-store and on the device.

  • Number derived from Alert Shopper III Harris Interactive responses extrapolated to US Census 2010 data

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Placecast. Data was collected between February 16 and 24, 2012 among 2,262 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,952 own a standard cell phone or smartphone; between May 17 and 19, 2010, of whom 1,710 own a standard cell phone or smartphone; and between July 20 – 22, 2009, of whom 1,729 were identified as cell phone owners. Results were weighted as needed to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population ages 18+ using targets for region, age within gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity. Respondents for this survey were selected from among the Harris Poll Online (HPOL) database, which includes several million people who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Rachael Himsel Nunez at Rachael(at)vscpr(dot)com

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit http://www.harrisinteractive.com.

About Placecast

Started in 2005, Placecast is a proven innovator in the arena of location-based marketing. Placecast's ShopAlerts® platform is an end-to-end mobile monetization solution for mobile operators, payments companies, and brands. The service is designed to drive consumers into brick-and-mortar stores using mobile marketing with patented geofencing technology.

ShopAlerts® has transformed the location-based marketing industry, taking home the top prize for innovation awarded by the National Retail Federation.

Over 130 brands, including The North Face, Starbucks, L’Oreal, Subway, Kohl’s, Kiehl’s, Kmart, HP, Chico’s White House Black Market, JetBlue and SC Johnson have all run ShopAlerts® through Placecast and its partners. ShopAlerts® is licensed by Telefonica O2 in Europe and AT&T and DDR in the U.S. and is currently being used by millions of carriers’ subscribers. In the U.S., ShopAlerts® programs can be delivered across AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, reaching up to 268 million consumers.

Placecast is backed by ONSET Ventures Quatrex Capital, and Voyager Capital.

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Rachael Himsel
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