Everything's mobile, so why are more shoppers using computers?

Picture of a consumer shopping online by Pixnio.com.

More people are shopping online. And people who shop online are shifting more purchases online. This surprises no one.

What was once clandestine consumption, is now smiling at us from the Amazon Prime boxes that pepper every other porch on the block. It's piled high in apartment complex mailrooms, demanding more square footage. It's the personal shoppers bullying their wide-load grocery carts through the store to fill your order before you arrive at curb side pickup.

According to an NPR/Marist poll, nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers and 92 percent of online shoppers say they've purchased something on Amazon. They shop online for the convenience ("You can shop anytime day or night"), for the ease ("It's easier to find the item you are looking for"), for the selection, for the solitude ("You can avoid lines and people") and for other reasons big ("It's cheaper") and small ("Recommendations by the online retailer are available").

Again, not terribly surprising. But what is surprising is how consumers are opting to shop online. Retailers take note. That oft-featured money shot of a busy-yet-perfectly coifed and lipsticked businesswoman/wife/mom reaching for her phone to place an online order that will heroically save her from traffic/lines/people, is trending weary. Cue the desktop and tablets.

A growing number of North Americans are using a computer rather than phone to shop online. According to a recent Forrester study, e-commerce sales grew 14 percent between 2016 and 2018. But during the same period, the volume of e-purchases made with a mobile device, as a percentage of all e-commerce sales, dropped from 43 percent to 36 percent. The percentage using their phone to make a purchase at least weekly fell from 21 percent to 16 percent.

Participants who preferred to use a computer to shop online cited ease of shopping (51 percent), being "more used to their computer" (46 percent) and mobile screens being too small (30 percent), according to research by Gartner Iconoculture.

It's not an age thing. Yes, Boomers and Matures appreciate larger screens but so does Gen We. At least a third of Gen We students studied typically use computers, often tablets, to shop online.

Said Forrester vice president and principal analyst Sucharita Kodali, "There are few ‘no PC' households in the U.S. And we don't anticipate that changing as young children are becoming accustomed to larger — not smaller! — screens."

These studies emphasize the importance of always thinking cross-screen to ensure the optimum consumer experience. This is especially true in the retail space where retargeting can be used to follow consumers across devices and compel purchase.

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