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Half of mobile users have made a major purchase: report

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February 5, 2015

The Zillow app

The Zillow app

More consumers are using their smartphones for purchases beyond just a cup of coffee, with a new survey finding that half of mobile Internet users have made a major financial purchase, such as getting a mortgage, buying a car or investing in stocks, from a mobile device.

The survey, published by Bankrate.com, also points to some known tendencies of these consumers, such as security concerns and a decrease in conversion as age increases. Still, it is important to watch for changes in customer habits regarding mobile purchases.

“We know from past surveys and from consumption studies that Americans are spending more and more money online,” said Mike Cetera, automotive and mobile finance editor at Bankrate.com, Chicago. “This is still a predominately desktop experience, but mobile spending is carving out its own niche and should grow as smartphone users become more comfortable buying things on the go.”

Moving on up
Consumers most likely to have made a large transaction on their mobile device were between the ages of 30 and 49, and 58 percent of them have done so.

Despite their tech-savvy reputation, only 46 percent of millennials (18-29 year olds) have purchased major items on a mobile device, which is only slightly more than people age 50 and older.

Although mobile purchases are growing, Americans are moving cautiously.  The survey found that only 12 percent “always” or “often” use a phone or tablet for larger purchases.

Seniors appear to be the most reluctant to make large mobile transactions; more than six in 10 seniors have never made a big-ticket purchase this way.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 1.35.19 PM
Bankrate.com chart

Data security remains as the biggest concern among those who do not regularly use mobile devices for financial transactions.

Older Americans were far more likely to cite security fears as their primary reason not to use a mobile device to conduct major financial transactions. Fifty-three percent of respondents 65 and older expressed this concern, while just 34 percent of millennials said this was the main reason to avoid large mobile transactions.

Researchers of the survey purposely refrained from associating its questions with a dollar amount and left it up to respondents to decide what they considered to be a large, major purchase.

“We intentionally stayed away from asking about specific dollar amounts.” Mr. Cetera said. “We provided examples in the survey question of what might be considered a large financial commitment, such as getting a mortgage or buying a car, stocks or insurance, but really left it up to the respondents to decide what a major transaction is to them.

“The goal here was to learn whether smartphone users have an appetite to do more than buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks with their smartphone,” he said. “The answer we found is a resounding maybe.”

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and can be seen in its entirety at this site.

Taking note
Some brands are catching on to these customer habits and responding by lending offers.

For example, Taco Bell is driving downloads of its mobile application and ramping up awareness of its mobile ordering function by tempting customers with a free Doritos Locos Taco with each mobile purchase made this month.

The fast food brand will be giving away up to one million free tacos up to Jan. 31 in an effort to thank loyal customers and users of its mobile app. Taco Bell rolled out mobile ordering and a mobile payment solution in late 2014 to offer customers the convenience of ordering before arrival at a bricks-and-mortar restaurant and to provide a slew of customization options (see story).

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Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos taco

In September 2014, Bankrate released another report about mobile wallets and customers wanting access to new forms of payment.

As brands and retailers explore the opportunity with mobile wallets, consideration should be given to how they can be used to gain the attention of millennials, who have careful spending habits and technologically inclined mindsets.

According to the report, 63 percent of millennials do not own a credit card. While technology is already ingrained in millennials, they are likely already drawn to mobile wallet solutions (see story).

“The study shows some consumers are ready now,” Mr. Cetera said. “For marketers, the notion that about half of all mobile users are comfortable enough today to make a big financial commitment using a mobile device means there’s a new channel they can use to reach out to consumers.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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