Tickets, travel services and games top mobile shoppers’ lists.

Mobile shoppers are still a minority among U.S. consumers, but already a significant minority. And understanding how these early adopters are shopping via their mobile phones can help retailers preparing for the growing consumer adoption of mobile commerce.

More than 33.3 million U.S. consumers already engage in shopping-related activities on their mobile phones, says research firm Experian Simmons in its “2011 Mobile Consumer Report.” 7%, or 2.3 million, of those consumers have made a purchase on their devices, the report finds.

While not all of them are buying products and services directly through a mobile phone, they are using the devices to shop in ways that can lead to purchases in stores or through e-commerce sites, says John Fetto, Experian Simmons senior marketing manager.

According to data from the Simmons National Consumer Study conducted by Experian Simmons, which surveyed 24,722 adults between February 2010 and March 2011, 15% of U.S. mobile phone owners research products and compare prices using their mobile phones. What types of products are they searching for? 23% are interested in buying tickets to movies and events, with 16% investigating travel services and 15%  games and toys.

The survey also found that 8% of mobile phone owners use their smartphones to scan bar codes to get more product information.


Experian Simmons also segmented mobile phones owners by their mobile shopping habits. The “Mobirati” comprise 20% of mobile phone owners, and they’re part of the generation that has never lived without a cell phone. “Social connectors,” at 22%, use mobile phones as a bridge to their social world. “Mobile professionals,” making up 18%, use their mobile phones for communication and to obtain information. “Pragmatic adopters,” 20%, are learning that mobile phones can do more than make and receive calls. The last group, “basic planners,” 21%, use mobile phones for voice communication and little else. The total does not add up to 100% because of rounding, Experian Simmons says.

A retailer must understand the dynamics of these segments in order to devise an effective mobile strategy, Fetto says. “Just knowing if your consumer base is among the leading edge of mobile consumers gives you an idea of ways to plan your marketing campaign,” he says. For example, if many of a retailer’s customers use their phones to compare prices and research products, the retailer might want to advertise lower prices.

On the other hand, merchants not seeing much mobile shopping activity among their customers should be prepared for that to change, he adds. “With more than 90% of consumers owning cell phones, retailers will get more consumers who are savvy and want to use their mobile phones,” Fetto says.