xAd, a leader in location-based intelligence that drives sales, has revealed the extent of consumers’ use of smartphones to research and make purchasing decisions.

The study examines how consumer’s relationships with mobile and physical location affects purchase behaviour and decision. The findings are detailed in xAd’s 2016 U.K. Mobile Path to Purchase research that analysed survey responses from 1,500 smartphone users in the UK who have used their device for a purchase decision over the past 30 days in the Retail, Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) or Auto categories.

Making a purchase is no longer a linear decision process. The reliance on mobile for purchase decisions, combined with the ‘always-on’ nature of smartphones, has fundamentally changed how consumers consider purchases — creating multiple touchpoints to reach and influence them in the process. Impatience and faster decision making processes mean that reaching people in the right moment has never been more important.

Produced annually since 2013, the study provides insight on how the “always-on” and “on-the-go” nature of mobile impacts consumers’ intent, immediacy and context — providing marketers with the information they need to engage their audiences at the optimal time and place.

Theo Theodorou, Head of EMEA, xAd, said: “This year’s Mobile Path to Purchase study proves just how crucial a role mobile plays within a consumer’s decision making process. For marketers, understanding how people are using their devices to consider purchases is critical – especially under the lens of location and real-world visitation being the highest indicator of purchase intent – to provide the best, most relevant brand experience at the optimum time. Why is this so important? The study shows that 56% of people who research products opt to make a purchase decision – online or offline – within the hour, and overall over 70% want to be within 5 miles of a physical store, so using location and location intelligence to reach people in those ‘moments that matter’ is key.

The report highlighted three key areas:

Using location to drive people into store isn’t just a purchase completion tactic, it’s key for research too

Purchase completion isn’t the only reason why advertisers should be driving people into store – research is just as important. Over half (57%) of respondents still visit a location as part of their research before making that all important purchase decision.

  • Specifically for Auto, many assume that once people have visited a brand specific dealership, the consumer has already decided which car to purchase. This just isn’t true! 64% admit to visiting dealerships as part of the research only process, proving that people are still able to be influenced even when they commit to visit a specific brand dealership
  • For retail, 62% completed a purchase after researching it, mostly online via mobile 39% or instore 28%
  • Overall, of all the categories researched using mobile, almost the same proportion of consumers are completing their purchases on mobile (35%) and in-store (36%). But a millennial split is apparent, with 45-54 year olds much more likely to complete their purchases in-store 40%, compared with 28% of 18-24 year olds

The importance of mobile as both a research and purchase tool is increasing

Almost a third (29%) admitted not using any other tool apart from mobile to make a purchasing decision

  • Smartphones are increasingly being recognised as the most important research tool, doubling from 19% in 2013 to 39% in 2016
  • However, different sectors show differing opinion. QSR relies heavily on mobile – 51% say it’s the most important research tool and 40% don’t use any other media. Whereas for Retail and Auto, laptops/desktops are used the most (53% Retail, 40% Auto), with mobile a close second (32% Retail, 35% Auto)
  • When using a smartphone, the most common things people look to do are ‘find pricing information’ and to ‘find a location near me’
  • Looking for directions is the top use for mobile when people are on the move in all categories (Retail 21%, QSR 30%, Auto 33%)
  • Even though more people still prefer to buy in-store after researching a product on mobile (36%), 35% will go on to buy on mobile (of which 66% of respondents had done)

People are making their mind up to buy quickly and becoming more impatient once they have done so

56% of consumers are making purchasing decisions immediately or within the hour after researching on their mobile

  • Proximity is key for purchase completion. 43% of those using mobile for retail purposes expect locations of businesses found on smartphones to be within a local driving distance (1-5 miles), and 20% expect it to be within walking distance (less than 1 mile).
  • For retail, 37% of respondents used their smartphones specifically to purchase at home, whilst only 5% did on the move as most opted to visit the store instead

Jonathan Mew, chief operating officer from the IAB UK said: “Mobile allows advertisers to merge the online and offline worlds and enhance the customer experience throughout the consumer journey. Consumers researching products and services while on-the-go demonstrate a great deal of intent to purchase and to purchase quickly – and smartphones allow marketers to reach these people in these moments.”

View the entire article on Retail Times.