Holiday shoppers are plugged into their digital devices.

This story first appeared in the December 20, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to GfK Roper/SapientNitro’s consumer shopping survey about the in-store versus mobile-tablet shopping experience, smartphone owners are putting smartphones and other devices to greater use this year and across a variety of shopping behaviors.

Consumers who bought something using a digital device rose to 74 percent this year, compared with 55 percent last year.

The 2012 holiday season marked a fundamental shift where retailers not only recognized digital shoppers, but accommodated them with everything from GPS-enabled store maps to updated mobile shopping apps for smartphones and tablets.

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According to the GfK Roper/SapientNitro survey, retailers could do more. Seven in 10 consumers agreed with the statement “retailers could do more to enhance the in-store shopping experience.” Some upgrades shoppers would like to see include the ability to buy products in-store and have them shipped home at no cost, cited by 79 percent. Free Wi-Fi was cited by 63 percent; interactive displays or kiosks were recommended by 57 percent, and exclusive in-store mobile offers, 56 percent.

According to the GfK Roper/SapientNitro survey, the number of consumers who researched and browsed for products rose to 82 percent this year, from 67 percent in 2011, and 62 percent used an e-mail offer from a retailer, up from 45 percent last year.

SapientNitro also said consumers are using physical stores differently. A majority of digital users, 51 percent, reported that they engage in showrooming, or using stores to browse products while planning to buy products online.

Four in 10 consumers, up from 33 percent last year, said they purchased a product in a store after researching the product online. About 27 percent said they purchased a product online after shopping for a similar item in a physical store.

Twenty-four percent of shoppers had the impression of there being more deals offered this holiday season. An increasing number are using digital devices to help navigate and find the best bargains. Forty-three percent said they are relying more on their smartphone, tablet or computer compared to last year’s holiday shopping season.

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