The end of the year is nearly here, bringing with it one of the year’s most important shopping periods. With smartphone penetration in Saudi Arabia at 86% across the entire population, and as high as 94% among under-25s, consumers are already making many of their online purchases using mobile devices. Mobile commerce (mCommerce) is set to make an even bigger contribution to sales this year, so it’s more important than ever that retailers understand the mobile path to purchase.

New research shows that customer journeys involving mobile tend to be longer than their desktop-only equivalents - with more than twice as many touchpoints between brand and consumer - and that shoppers who use mobile devices are also more likely to research and purchase in-store. Saudi Arabia’s rates of smartphone usage and mCommerce are among the highest in the world, so to dig deeper into how mobile affects the path to purchase we’ve put together some research looking at four key product categories: Clothing & Footwear, Home Furnishings, Laptops and Skincare.

The study looked at the basic moments of the purchase journey: when consumers first become aware of an apparent need; when they begin scoping suitable brands and products; when they hone in on the features and criteria that matter to them most; and when they choose the right deal, vendor and purchase method.

Research is Mobile

We found that across all four categories, consumers in the research phase of their shopping journey were heavy users of their mobile devices. Laptop purchasers were the most likely to research on mobile, with 79% of respondents saying they turned to their device to learn more about the range of products and brands available to them. Skincare saw the lowest level of mobile research, but even in this category, 73% of respondents used their smartphones to look for new products and brands.

Mobile video was a major source of product research in all categories, with an average 84% of respondents saying they viewed product videos on their smartphones. Usage of mobile video was highest among Skincare shoppers, with 86% of respondents saying they watched content during this phase of the purchase journey.

Home Furnishing shoppers proved to be the most spontaneous, with 33% of respondents in this category saying that their mobile research was unplanned, compared to 23% of Laptop shoppers. In the study, 84% of online Laptop shoppers and 66% of online Home Furnishing buyers said that their first awareness of the product they eventually purchased came from smartphone-based research, demonstrating just how crucial this phase can be in informing the eventual decision. With research levels uniformly high for all product types, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to utilise search to influence thinking early in the decision-making process.

Transactions are Mobile (and In-Store!)

Purchase activity on mobile was extremely high among Saudi users, with 22% of respondents who had made a purchase in any of the categories saying they had done so on their mobile device. Laptops were the most common product type for mobile commerce, with 26% of respondents making their purchase on a smartphone, with Clothing and Footwear the second most popular at 24%. Skincare saw the lowest levels of online purchase at just 17%, but conversely saw the highest rates of physical store activity, with 70% of respondents saying they had visited or purchased in-store as a result of exploring a product on their smartphone.

While Skincare had the highest levels of in-store activity, mobile proved successful in driving customers to physical shops in all four categories. Across all products, 67% of shoppers ended up visiting or purchasing in-store, with search again making a significant contribution. In total, 99% of Laptop purchasers and 73% of Skincare buyers who made their purchase either online or in-store said they used Search to discover the product they eventually bought. The immediacy of the mobile shopping experience is also highlighted by the nature of the content shoppers search for, with 53% of Clothing & Footwear buyers looking for product availability and stock information.

Mobile devices have transformed the way consumers explore products and research their most important purchases. With a busy end-of-year retail season upon us, businesses that help customers discover the products they need, find the specific items they want, and then purchase seamlessly on their chosen device, will be well placed to win these mobile moments.