4 Your Money

More shoppers using smartphones than ever

CREATED Mar 17, 2014

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For Emily Ojobaro, being a new mom means lots of multitasking. When she's up late doing feedings, she uses her free hand to do some shopping.

"It's just easy when I have my phone in my hand to click on an app or open the internet and next thing you know you made a purchase. I don't remember the last time I turned on a computer to buy something," she says.

Convenience is driving consumers like Emily to tablets and smartphones, so they don't have to drive from store to store. Emily says she likes retailers with their own apps." You log into the apps, you don't have to log in again, you don't have to have your credit card, it saves all your information."

Retail consultant Renato Scaff with Accenture explains, "Mobile sales are growing at probably 25% versus online total, growing at around mid-teens, and traditional brick and mortar growing in lower, single digits."

Scaff expects mobile growth to accelerate even more, and says phones and tablets are essential tools for the entire shopping experience. "There's no question that consumers are getting smarter through their mobile, whether it's, they're looking at comparative pricing when they're in the store and making sure they're getting the best deal or they're reading ratings and reviews from other consumers to know 'Is this a good product?'"

Emily likes that she can find discounts, and easily comparison shop with her phone, but admits, "Sometimes it can be annoying using your smart phone to shop if you can't zoom in and see the product, like if you can't make your screen bigger, because you can't look at a one centimeter by one centimeter picture and make a decision."

Other concerns center on security, according to John Breyault of the National Consumers League. His advice: Be sure you use a pin to lock your phone, so that others can't access your info if you lose it.

"If you're protecting your wallet with a certain degree of security, make sure and protect your smart phone that way or even stronger," he reasons.

He also urges caution when shopping from spots with public wi-fi since it's possible your information can be intercepted, and he says be careful about the sites you're searching, too. "There are lots of malware sites out there that you go to that may look like they're offering a good deal on a product, but instead they only exist to load viruses and things like that onto your smartphone or they may be trying to collect sensitive personal information about you like a social security number, a date of birth or credit or banking information."

One security advantage phones may have over computers: Apps.

"The apps are typically vetted by the app store that you get them from and they're likely to be safer from malware," Breyault points out.

Emily doesn't worry about security so much. A bigger fear for her is impulse purchases, since it's so simple to buy through her phone. "What I try to do is I'll add it to the cart and then I will wait until the next day before I complete the purchase."

Another perk of mobile? The ability to find savings with coupons or discount codes, even when you're in the brick and mortar store.