Coupon Searching on Mobile a Proxy for Immediate Purchase Intent

A new study from G/O Digital (a Gannett company) reveals some familiar and some interesting new things about mobile user behavior. The study, conducted in May, is noteworthy for its large sample: “over 13,000 responses from Key Ring app users . . . who own at least one desktop/laptop computer and a smartphone or tablet.”

Key Ring is a loyalty card app owned by Gannett.

The study sought to compare device usage in a broad range of shopping activities. The top “shopping” behavior performed on mobile devices was looking for coupons, followed by accessing shopping lists.

Key Ring top shopping activities mobile

While the chart above is not only about in-store mobile usage, prior surveys have documented the following top in-store mobile behaviors:

  1. Compare/checked prices
  2. Look for coupons or offers
  3. Search for product ratings/reviews

Depending on the survey the positions of the first two behaviors (coupons, price checking) may be reversed. The “access shopping list” behavior is quite interesting but not usually among the top 3 activities of in-store mobile users. Yet it’s an important piece of functionality for retail and especially grocery apps. It also ties in to indoor/in-store location, as I indicate below.

Below is a list of different behaviors (mostly cooking and grocery shopping-related), which reflect clear user device preferences:

Shopping activities by device

The survey also found certain kinds of consumer activities that can trigger purchases (“when and item goes on sale”) or are performed immediately prior to purchase (“search for offers”). As the following graphics reflect, sales motivate purchase behavior and searching for offers or coupons is often a proxy for immediate purchase intent:

purchase behavior Gannett

All this indicates how powerful coupons and sales are to motivate consumer purchase behavior. But coupons aren’t the only type of content that can motivate purchase behavior.

Agency BPN on behalf of Hillshire Brands found in an iBeacon case study (presented first at Place 2014) that product information/content and coupons equally impacted in-store purchases. In other words, brands don’t always need to use sales or deals to motivate consumers to buy.

Indeed, price is powerful but not always the determining factor in purchase decisions. Often reviews or item quality are the critical variables. In the apparel category, price outweighed all other factors by a significant margin. However in electronics or grocery price was a factor but other considerations also affected purchase behavior.

Key ring purchase variables

The report concludes with the assertion that shopping list-making “facilitates” in-store purchase behavior. Nearly 90% of survey respondents said that they were most inclined to make lists on smartphones vs. other devices. And 61% said that they do “often” or “always” prior to shopping.

The Gannett/Key Ring statement implies that lists by themselves impact in-store shopping. Lists are helpful but they don’t necessarily influence in-store behavior. They help organize and make it convenient. However when lists are augmented (in an app) by indoor location or related offers then they can become tools to influence in-store behavior.

Data on listmaking

Though this wasn’t directly addressed by the study, most retailer apps to date fail to deliver against mobile users’ basic in-store needs and behaviors. As I’ve argued many times retail and grocery apps need to become context-sensitive shopping assistants that can be used both away from stores (for e-commerce) or in-stores to facilitate purchases.

Once in stores retail apps should transform into sources of product information, product locations and offers (if available) to help consumers make purchase decisions, find products on the shelves or expose them to new products they might not have known about.

The metaphor for the ongoing disconnect between most retailers and consumers is the fact that 90%+ of coupons are still distributed in print.

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