It’s a new world for retailers: Their customers are bouncing between PCs and tablets and smartphones and even smart TVs before they purchase a product online, on mobile or in-store, mobile and social ad firm Sociomantic Labs finds. The role of tablets is expanding, the firm adds.

Mobile commerce continues to evolve fast, disrupting everything in its path. Five years ago, when the iPhone was first starting to impact retailer traffic and the iPad did not yet exist, U.S. consumers did some shopping on PCs and most purchasing in stores. Five short years later, consumers are shopping and buying in varying combinations of stores, PCs, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and smart TVs. In fact, 49% of U.S. adult Internet users use some combination of devices when shopping, finds mobile and social ad firm Sociomantic Labs.

“Retailers need to be prepared to engage with their customers across every device, platform and browser if they want to turn their clicks into conversions,” says Brian Ferrario, vice president of marketing at Sociomantic. “Retail is heading in the direction of mobile devices dominating online shopping. PC sales plummeted in 2013, and mobile devices are steadily becoming the go-to resource for everything, including shopping.”

Younger consumers are more likely to use multiple devices to shop, finds the Sociomantic survey of 1,000 U.S. adult consumers (72% own smartphones and 55% own tablets). 63% of consumers ages 18-24 use multiple devices to shop, 66% 25-34, 58% 35-44, 48% 45-54, 44% 55-64, and 29% 65 and older, the survey says.

Search is an extraordinarily popular activity on mobile devices. Among the six age groups examined, the percentage of smartphone users and tablet users who regularly use search engines ranged from 71% to 93%, Sociomantic finds. The range for researching a product is 60% to 83% and browsing a retailer’s m-commerce site or app 65% to 86%, the survey finds. And consumers make purchases much more often on tablets than smartphones, the survey says.

Tablets increasingly are becoming the place consumers choose to make mobile commerce purchases, Ferrario says.


“The iPad was introduced less than four years ago and already almost 80% of tablet owners use it for shopping,” he says. “The iPad is unmatched in terms of convenience, and as shopping experiences continue to become more personalized, that number will only increase.”

Overall, Sociomantic says mobile devices are highly personal machines, and the more consumers use smartphones and tablets, the more they will expect personalized experiences.

“Consumers are using multiple devices and screen sizes and retailers need to be thinking more broadly and creatively than they have in the past,” Ferrario says. “Each device is different, just like each consumer. It’s not about audiences anymore. People have come to expect marketing to be personalized, immediate, relevant, consistent, engaging and rewarding. This is especially true on mobile devices, which are the most personal technology to date.”