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M-commerce isn’t entirely harmful to brick and mortar retailers

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m-commerce in store trendsThe results of a new study have shown that the impact on traditional shopping is not necessarily negative.

A newly released report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project has shown that while m-commerce is taking off, it is not necessarily at the expense of brick and mortar retailers, as many shoppers are using the devices to help make purchasing decisions while in store.

The report placed its primary focus on consumers who use the devices to inform themselves before purchasing.

The type of behaviors that were found among those m-commerce users included price checks, reading product reviews, and consulting with friends and family members about the purchases that they were considering. Retailers have been expressing deep concern about a trend toward “showrooming”, in which consumers come into brick and mortar stores in order to have a look at a product in person, only to buy it for a cheaper price online.

M-commerce users aren’t necessarily choosing to buy online instead of in store.

What the research showed was that a larger number of consumers – 58 percent – used m-commerce during the 2012 holiday shopping season. This was an increase over 52 percent at the same time the year before. It was primarily young and/or wealthy shoppers with smartphones who were most likely to use those devices for shopping purposes.

Approximately 12 percent of the consumers who did use m-commerce did so by seeking out cheaper prices so that they could make the purchase online. This matched the 2011 percentage. However, the report also discovered some more positive news for retailers. What it determined was the 46 percent of the people who performed a price comparison on their smartphones still made a purchase in-store. This was an increase of 11 percent over the year before.

The report speculated that this is likely a reflection of the many efforts that retailers have been making to become more appealing than online shopping. For instance, many of the larger retail chains are now offering price matching.

According to Rachelle Bernstein from the National Retail Federation tax counsel, though many brick and mortar store owners felt that online retailers had an advantage over those with physical locations because they can make a purchase without having to pay a state sales tax. However, new legislation is expected to go into effect that requires m-commerce merchants to charge local sales tax based on the location of the consumer.

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