Consumers use smartphones to shop but not to pay, study shows

While mobile payment schemes have been slow to catch on in the United States, that doesn't mean that smartphones aren't making their presence felt in the retail channel in other ways.

Five percent may sound like a small number, but it amounts to $159 billion of in-store sales this year—nothing to sneeze at in an industry with margins as razor thin as they are in retail. About 5 percent of retail sales in the United States are influenced by information obtained via mobile phones, according to research released Tuesday by global professional services company Deloitte. Those sales occur after consumers use their phones to research a purchase before or while they make it.

What's more, Deloitte predicts that as more consumers switch from feature phones to smartphones, the influence of mobile information will more than triple within the next four years. Use of smartphones will influence 17 to 21 percent of retail purchases by 2016, which translates into $628 billion to $728 billion in sales.

Deloitte's researchers found similar mobile sales trends in the United Kingdom. There, a larger percentage of in-store sales are influenced by smartphones—six percent—although that's only about $24.7 billion.

When smartphones gain 80 percent market penetration in 2016, Deloitte predicted the devices would be influencing 15 or 18 percent of UK sales, which amounts to $56.9 billion to $69.9 billion.

NFC

In the UK, Deloitte reports, a visit to a retailer's mobile website during a shopping trip increased the chances that a consumer will make a purchase during the trip. Some 74 percent of website visitors made a purchase, compared to 66 percent who made a purchase without consulting a mobile site.

"[Mobile's] influence is only going to increase so it is very important for retailers to get this right," Deloitte's UK head of retail Ian Geddes says in a statement.

That influence will grow even faster as pay-by-phone schemes gain popularity. "The increased adoption of contactless payment technology will act to accelerate the influence of mobile," according to Colin Jeffrey, Deloitte's head of multichannel retail, in a statement.

In the United States, however, adoption of contactless systems, like those using NFC technology, have been slow to grow, and some say a mass market for mobile payments may be as long as a decade away.

The pace of NFC adoption might have increased if Apple chose to include the technology in its new iPhone, but it apparently felt the technology wasn't appropriate yet for the Apple experience. Instead, it's using its own approach to mobile payments, Passbook.

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