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Mobile Tech Hasn't Cut In-Person Shopping for Most Americans

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With the rise of mobile shopping — and major companies like J.C. Penney, Sears, Staples and RadioShack shuttering hundreds of stores — it's not hard to find forecasters predicting the death of brick-and-mortar shops.


Although online shopping poses a real threat to some brick-and-mortar retailers, a new Gallup poll shows that mobile tech hasn't hugely affected the in-person buying habits of most Americans.

In fact, 59 percent of those polled said the amount of shopping they do at retail stores has remained unchanged. Another 22 percent said they actually do more in-person shopping now thanks to their gadgets, though 19 percent said they now shop at stores less often.

Advances in e-commerce have created challenges for brick-and-mortar retailers, in part because Internet companies such as Amazon, which have lower overhead costs, can sometimes sell the same products at lower prices, Gallup officials said. [Shop 'Til You Drop: 7 Marketing Tricks Retailers Use]

Another Gallup poll at the start of last year's Christmas shopping season found that stores might be losing one in 10 customers to "showrooming," meaning potential buyers checked out the product in person at a store only to go home and buy it online. There are even mobile shopping apps that make real-time showrooming easier.

But at the same time, retailers have taken advantage of mobile tech, through advertising, coupons and programs that allow customers to pick up items they purchased online in an actual store.

The results of the new poll suggest the positive and negative effects of mobile technology on in-store retail shopping may balance each other out, at least for now, Gallup officials said.

The survey revealed age and income gaps in online vs. in-person shopping habits. Twenty-nine percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 said mobile tech has boosted their shopping in real stores, while 15 percent admitted they now shop less at brick-and-mortar retailers. Gallup officials speculated that the ability of people in this age group to shop online may be limited because they are much less likely than older adults to have credit cards. 

Meanwhile, upper-income Americans are the group most likely to say they now do less in-person shopping thanks to mobile tech. Among those in households that bring in more than $90,000 yearly, 28 percent of people reported a decrease in their real-life shopping habits, whereas 23 percent said they now do more shopping in stores.

The Gallup poll was based on phone interviews conducted March 21-23 with a random sample of 1,505 adults, ages 18 and older, from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 3 percentage points, Gallup officials said.

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Megan Gannon
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.