How smartphones and tablets are fueling commerce

Smartphones and tablets are driving both in-store and online commerce, but their roles are distinct in many ways. Nielsen shed some light on how consumers are using both types of devices to aid their shopping.

Overall, 79 percent of respondents in a survey conducted in the first quarter said they had shopped using their smartphone or tablet. But when it came time to buy, 42 percent of tablet owners said they bought purchased items on their device compared to 29 percent of smartphone owners.

Because of their portability, smartphones are obviously better for in-store research and conducting tasks on the go. For things like finding a store (73 percent of smartphone owners versus 42 percent of tablet owners), using shopping lists (42 percent v. 16 percent for tablets) and mobile coupons (32 percent v. 11 percent) there’s a clear preference for smartphones.

For price-checking, the smartphone has a smaller edge (62 percent v. 52 percent for tablets) while both devices are good for research before a purchase, with people preferring the tablet 66 percent over the smartphone 57 percent. Tablet owners are more likely to read a product review (56 percent vs 45 percent for smartphones) and write their own review of a purchase (22 percent v 11 percent for smartphones.)

As a payment tool, both devices are still finding their way. Nielsen said that 28 percent of tablet owners and 27 percent of smartphone users have used their devices for payment.

The results are probably not that surprising if you’ve been following the topic all along. But it’s a good reminder of how consumers are utilizing these devices to shop. And it highlights the fact that there are many shopping scenarios. You might see people scanning a product in a store with their smartphone, finding a better price online and then finishing the purchase at home on their tablet. The tablet can also start the process, used to gather information and lead people to a store, where they check it out for themselves. As Walt Doyle, the former CEO of mobile ad network WHERE recently told me, the purchase funnel is now becoming a purchase pretzel.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Johan Larsson.