US shoppers rely on home internet, but mobile-reliant in stores

For all the growth mobile devices have seen in the last year, they still have a long way to go before displacing in-home computers as consumers' primary internet connection.

A recent Pew study, "U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015," found that almost two thirds (64 percent) of Americans now own a smartphone, up 35 percent from this time four years ago, but the degree to which they rely on it for internet usage varies. Nineteen percent said they rely somewhat on a smartphone for online access, whether it's due to having little or no access to the internet at home. Seven percent of Americans have no broadband service at home and no other easy access to alternatives, so rely heavily on their phone.

Within the general population there are particular groups that rely heavily on their phones for online activity, though. Among those between the ages of 18 and 29, 15 percent depend on mobile devices, along with 13 percent of Americans with low household income (defined in the report as less than $30,000 per year). Additionally, 12 percent of African Americans and 13 percent of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared to 4 percent of whites.

Still, the majority of American smartphone owners continue to turn to more traditional devices for their online activity, which appears to contradict recent findings from Criteo. The "State of Mobile Commerce Q1 2015" report showed that mobile accounts for 20 percent of sales in most retail categories, with iOS users alone making up 10 percent of all e-commerce transactions in the first quarter.

The study also reported that U.S. shoppers use mobile similar to the way they use desktop, viewing approximately the same number of products and constituting similar order value.

The Pew report may hold an explanation for this discrepancy. While most Americans don't rely on their phones for internet activity in general, 44 percent did say they have had trouble doing something because they didn't have their phone with them, and one of the top tasks people struggled with was shopping.

Six percent of smartphone owners cited difficulty shopping because they didn't have their phone, which had a shopping list on it, prevented them from calling someone for assistance, or kept them from looking up additional product information.

Those are precisely the areas many major retailers are focusing on with their mobile initiatives these days, indicating their efforts are a step in the right direction. Just this week, Macy's (NYSE:M) updated its app to help shoppers search for items in nearby stores, Target (NYSE:TGT) laid out its plans to make mobile the "front door" to its shopping experience, while last week JCPenney (NYSE:JCP) added a visual search feature.

For more:
-See this Pew Research study

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