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11/22/2010
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Smartphones To Ring Up 28% Of Holiday Shopping

Consumers will use mobile technology and communications tools to leverage their spending reach, finds retail survey.

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Many shoppers are ready for Black Friday, long lines, and limited stock on the best deals: They are armed, not with crumpled lists and sugary snacks, but smartphones loaded with apps, URLs, and social media sites designed to find the best deals and spread the word about bad experiences.

In fact, a new breed of mobile shopping warriors -- or hyper-connected individuals -- and mobile shopping warrior wannabes, or moderately connected people, are expected to account for 28%, or $127 billion, of the $447 billion the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that U.S. consumers will spend this holiday season, according to IDC Retail Insights.

The new survey was designed to look into how consumers' growing comfort with mobile commerce (m-commerce) and social media commerce (sm-commerce) will impact the 2010 shopping season. And, according to this report, the impact will be big, as consumers will use technology and communications tools to leverage their spending reach.

"MSM-commerce introduces a new consumer shopping model which changes how consumers shop, not simply when and where they shop, as e-commerce has already enabled," said Greg Girard, program director, retail merchandise strategies, at IDC Retail Insights. "It is clear that MSM-commerce already has an influence on consumers' perception of brand value and their shopping intentions. We believe the retailers with superior mobile and social media commerce strategies in place will have a decided advantage."

For example, an easy-to-use mobile website influences consumers across all age groups about where to shop, the study found. And, despite the growing sea of blogs, social media sites, and online commentaries, retailers' own websites continue to serve as the most important source of information on which consumers make their final buying decisions, IDC Retail Insights found. Those retailers that produce consumer-generated website content and easy-to-use product information should have an edge this season, the researcher said.

Almost one-third of smartphone-carrying consumers -- who make up 24% of all U.S. consumers -- are prepared to use their mobile devices to transform the way in which they shop everywhere and, in particular, at retailers, the study found. Changes include searching for price and product information; checking merchandise availability; comparing prices in nearby shops; browsing reviews; and purchasing items, according to the report.

Perhaps not surprisingly, adults aged 25 to 44 comprised about two-thirds of the mobile-shopping warrior group, despite representing only less than half the consumers in the survey group. Consumers aged 45 to 54 were most likely to use the information they gained from their mobile devices to get an advantage by requesting a discount, for example, while at a store.

As shoppers evolve to concurrent omni-channel behaviors, stores' influence on purchase decisions at the shelf or end-cap will weaken, IDC Retail Insights predicted. Although social media continues to take up peoples' time, these sites do not generally have widespread influence on shopping decisions, the researcher said. However, friends do influence one another's shopping behavior on social networks and sites that have earned consumer trust will influence this behavior as well, according to the study.

"Consumers' increased comfort with using their smartphones to go online anywhere combined with their plans to use them more in the 2010 holiday season signals the beginning of a significant shift away from the capacity of the store channel to hold sway over consumers as they move to a purchase decision," said Girard.

IDC Retail Insights surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 19 years and older in September 2010 to determine how consumers will use MSM-commerce as they shop during the 2010 holiday season. About 73% of those surveyed are members of Facebook or other social networks and 68% own smartphones.

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