As more South Africans spend more time consuming content on their mobile devices, it’s no surprise that they are starting to use these devices as part of their overall shopping experience.

In fact, research from InMobi Africa indicates that mobile connectivity is playing an increasing role in influencing shopping behavior.

The survey polled 555 respondents across Greater Johannesburg and Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and found that 55% of shoppers are influenced by their mobile phones when making a decision to buy groceries at a supermarket.

In speciality or boutique stores consumers use mobile 24% of the time to augment their shopping experience, but the majority augment their shopping experience with a mobile phone when in malls or department stores (80%).

Interestingly, 21% of consumers are using their mobile phones while shopping at street traders whether that be to compare product prices to major retailers, or checking availability in those retailers, or looking for the ingredients in products.

“The mobile phone has become the consumer’s constant companion and is their social interface to the world, and also reaches them when they are economically active unlike many other types of media.  The power to influence behaviour in the retail space is taking off on a global scale, and retailers in Africa are starting to realise the potential,” says InMobi Africa marketing manager Daryn Smith.

In South Africa, many consumers are searching using their mobile devices before going shopping, presenting an opportunity for retailers to convert sales before the shopper has even arrived at the retailer. The survey found that 71% of respondents conducted mobile searches for electronics or appliances, with 68% pre-searching for restaurants and bars and 64% for luxury goods including clothing and accessories.

The concept of using a mobile device to augment a shopping experience has been labeled “search-andising”, but is not only limited to search; 38% scan the product code to find out more information online; 37% track their shopping list and expenses on their phones; and 19% take pictures of products for their own consideration. Not surprisingly, female youths are 12% more likely to take pictures to get their friends’ input on products.

When asked what mobile content was most useful to them whilst shopping, 49% of respondents cited information about sales and promotions, with 37% saying product information and availability and 18% in-store product locations.

Showcasing products in the mobile space is becoming progressively more innovative as companies are realizing they need both a website and mobile website or App to engage consumers effectively. South Africans surveyed would like to see more product information or photos through their mobile to aid them in their shopping experience, as well as store hours and directions on their phones.

Overall, the outlook towards mobile retail advertising remains positive as mobile gives consumers the convenience needed to compare prices, search trends and identify with their brands of choice, Smith adds. While television (53%) and newspaper ads (48%) still drive most feet to retailers, social media (38%) is playing a major part, and most social media interactions are now conducted on a mobile phone.

“Consumers are looking for the full brand experience, and the convergence between mobile and social to create a retail pull is a proven and cost effective way to translate consumer behaviour online into purchase decisions,” says Smith.