US shoppers save big-ticket online purchases for desktop

Mobile isn’t commanding the big bucks.
Mobile isn’t commanding the big bucks.
Image: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
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US shoppers may be flocking to mobile, but they’re spending more money on desktop.

As mobile usage soars, so is the amount of time shoppers spend browsing for goods on phones and tablets. US consumers now do a majority—60%—of their online shopping on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, research by ComScore shows. The bulk of online spending, however, still happens on desktop. 

The gap between mobile shopping and spending is so large because shoppers wait to buy big-ticket items like computers and furniture on desktop. It’s still too difficult to buy on mobile for shoppers to use it for high-end purchases, said Adam Lella, senior analyst of marketing insights at ComScore.

Web pages take longer to load on mobile, items are shown on smaller screens, and switching back and forth between tabs is a pain. All that makes it harder to conduct the extensive research that most people like to do before buying costly goods such as TVs and mattresses.

That’s partly why MikMak, a shopping app for the “iPhone generation,” doesn’t sell anything over $100. High-price points give shoppers pause. And the more they think about it, they less likely they are to make that purchase quickly. The app instead focuses on impulse buys like gadgets and home goods.

Some of these barriers to purchase also exist on desktop, which is why computers and consumer electronics are some of the slowest growing retail categories in terms of online spend.

Consumers know what they’re getting when buying video games and books online, Lella said. “Those are easier to purchase on mobile than bigger, research-heavy products.”

Some shoppers also aren’t comfortable making purchases on mobile, Lella said. They don’t want to whip out their credit cards on the go, or enter their information into mobile-shopping sites. And, when connected to public wifi, it’s a security risk.

Retail apps and mobile-checkout solutions like Visa Checkout and PayPal help shoppers move past these hurdles. But retail apps have been slow to take off and mobile-checkout is still getting off the ground.

ComScore is skeptical that spending on mobile will ever catch up to the time spent shopping on the devices. The company does expect the gap to close over time, as online shopping becomes more popular.