Mobile holiday shopping

Many skipping malls to use tablets, smartphones instead

Author: Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 18 2013 08:58:12 AM EST   Updated On: Dec 19 2013 06:20:00 AM EST

For Emily Ojobaro, being a new mom means lots of multitasking.  And 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," she said. "I don't remember the last time I turned on a computer to buy something."

Convenience is driving consumers like Ojobaro to tablets and smartphones, so they don't have to drive from store to store. Ojobaro 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," she said.

Retail Consultant Renato Scaff expects mobile growth to accelerate even more.

"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," explained Scaff, who is the Managing Director of Accenture's Retail Practice.

And Scaff says phones and tablets are essential tools for the entire shopping experience.

He explained, "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?'"

Ojobaro likes that she can find discounts, and easily comparison shop with her phone, but admits there are some cons.

"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," she said.

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," warned Breyault.

He also urges caution when shopping from spots with public wifi 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," he said.

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," explained Breyault.

Ojobaro says she 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," she said.

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