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Cellphone use for shopping up

A growing number of consumers worldwide used their mobile telephones to help them shop early in the holiday season with usage particularly high among young adults seeking coupons, according to a study sponsored by Motorola Inc.

Those consumers used their phones to comparison shop, take photos of items they were considering buying or simply to access online coupons, among other activities, according to the survey of some 4,500 shoppers conducted for Motorola between November 25 and December 20 by e-Rewards and TNS International.

Respondents came from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, India and China in the widest survey Motorola has yet conducted on the topic, though about 45% of them were US residents.

While comparable data from previous years were unavailable, Motorola said there was a surge in the use of smart phones while shopping this year.

Motorola found that 64% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 had used their mobile phones while shopping in the preceding two weeks, and about a third of Baby Boomers, or people over the age of 50, also used cell phones. Across countries and ages, just over half did.

That trend is expected to pick up speed in the coming years, and retailers will need to adapt if they want to survive, a Motorola senior director told Reuters.

“Those retailers most prepared for the onslaught of different types of technology used by not only the consumer but by people in their stores will get better returns,” said Frank Riso of Motorola's retail technology group.

Retailers catering to young shoppers are particularly vulnerable if they don't beef up their technology, given how keen those customers are to find and use coupons.

About half of consumers surveyed were dissatisfied with the availability of coupons and discounts, and Riso predicted retailers would ramp up efforts to allow shoppers to download coupons to their mobile phones and use them in stores.

The survey found that in 2009, about 39% of shoppers overall were ready to walk away from a purchase if coupons and discounts were unavailable. Those that did walk away each cost retailers $109.

“It's billions- billions that could have been sold had you been ready,” he said of retailers that don't invest in technology to accommodate savvy shoppers.

Last week, holiday sales results showed just how fierce that battle for youth spending dollars has become.

Youth apparel chain Aeropostale Inc reported sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store-sales, rose 10.1% in December, while rivals Hot Topic Inc and Abercrombie & Fitch fell short of expectations.

Motorola said Juniper Research forecast that consumer use of mobile coupons will generate nearly $6 billion globally in retail redemptions by 2014.

Use of mobile phones for shopping was highest in Asia, with 78%, and lowest in Canada and the United States, where 45.1% of shoppers did, the survey found.

Motorola also announced on Monday the launch of its Mobile Loyalty Solution service, which is designed to help retailers personalize service on customers' mobile phones and is compatible with most US mobile phones.

Motorola said it providing the technology to drugstore Kerr Drug to help it deliver digital coupons to shoppers. (Reuters)