More Americans Using Their Smartphones to Shop

Mobile commerce grew about 6 percentage points to more than 13 percent in the first quarter.

Man using his smart phone

Can you envision a world with less swiping and more typing when it comes to making everyday purchases?

It's actually already a growing trend, according to a new report from IBM, which shows growing momentum for online and mobile shopping.

Online sales increased more than 6 percent in March, according to the report, but the real eyebrow raiser involves mobile sales, which grew about 6 percentage points to more than 13 percent in the first quarter, almost double the amount compared to a year ago.

Experts partly attribute the bump to a wider adoption of Smartphones and businesses optimizing their sites for mobile use.

"It's a combination of the larger adoption of the devices themselves, but it's also a reflection of the retailers creating an experience designed specifically for some of these devices," says Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM Digital Marketing.

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But there's another element at play: A new generation of shoppers who are both web savvy and comfortable using their mobile phones to shop.

"These consumers really have a positive outlook on the buying experience," Henderson says, noting that the primary drivers of mobile commerce's popularity were convenience, value, and deals.

"You think about the online shopping experience, then being unshackled from the chains of your desktop computer and moving to the post-PC era, those elements all really fall into that mobile experience," Henderson adds.

That's particularly true for millenials—consumers roughly between the ages of 16 and 34—who have grown up surrounded by increasingly sophisticated technology and broadening Internet capabilities. For this demographic, access to information and shopping on the go isn't an option, it's essential.

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Not only were millenial consumers more likely to favor brands with strong online and social media presences, they used their mobile devices to research products and tap into customer reviews more heavily, according to a recent study by The Boston Consulting Group.

"When it comes to the adaption, adoption, and the integration of this technology into their daily lives, we really see this generation as leading indicators," says Christine Barton, partner and a managing director at The Boston Consulting Group.

Some of the trends IBM and BCG have identified are already materializing in the marketplace. eBay mobile reported $5 billion in mobile sales in 2011, a 150 percent increase, according to a recent report. The company expects to do another $8 billion in mobile sales in 2012. Overall, experts anticipate mobile commerce to grow globally by almost $120 billion by 2015.

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Some other impressive figures? In 2011, eBay reported that almost 900,000 new shoppers made their first purchases through a mobile device. And although the company sells about 52 pieces of clothing, pairs of shoes or accessories a minute, shoppers make big ticket purchases as well: On average, eBay Motors sells more than 3,400 vehicles a week, on top of more than 173,000 parts and accessories.

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at or follow her on Twitter.