Fortune poll: Move over, malls, as mobile shopping booms

Peter Cade—The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

FORTUNE Analytics brings readers business insights from proprietary data and exclusive surveys. It will launch as a premium newsletter in early 2020. Sign up for the debut below:

It was a scenario that has come to feel familiar: At the same time that Americans shoppers set all-time online sales records for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the number of shoppers braving the elements and crowds at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday fell this year.

While shoppers are still spending freely, where and how they’re doing it continues to change at a rapid pace—leaving some retailers out in the cold. That’s why Fortune-SurveyMonkey polled almost 8,500 Americans* to get the latest pulse on Americans’ shopping habits. 

The big numbers you should know:


  • … of Americans now make purchases online. And nearly 1 in 3 do so every week.


  • … of shoppers make purchases online through their mobile devices, including 82% of millennials and 55% of baby boomers.


  • … of millennials watch product review videos online. (A strong YouTube presence might be key for brands targeting younger buyers).


  • … of respondents still prefer shopping in a physical store over online shopping.

Big picture takeaway:

Not only are Americans continuing to shift from buying at brick-and-mortar to online, but they’re going from buying on their computers to their cell phones. They can buy anything at anytime from anywhere. And even the oldest Americans are starting to turn to online reviews and social media before making buying decisions. Put simply: The digital transformation of retail and brands isn’t losing any steam.

Three deeper takeaways:

1. Mobile shopping is booming—with everyone

Online shopping’s advantage over in-store buying boils down to convenience. And that’s exactly why mobile shopping is catching up to desktops. Why wait until you get home to order more paper towels, when you can do it on your iPhone during that boring meeting? In all, 69% of Americans are mobile shopping. That’s a jump from 51% in 2015, according to a Pew Research study that used the same question wording as the Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll.

While the majority of Americans are mobile shopping, mobile e-commerce still hasn’t overtaken desktops. In the month of November, online shopping from a smartphone made up 35% of all [e-commerce] sales, compared to 60% from desktops, according to Adobe Analytics.

And when buyers actually do make their way to physical stores, they’re often using their cell phone to price-match (57%) or look up online reviews (61%).

2. High-income households are big-time online shoppers

Amazons most noticeable move to gain a foothold with the well-off professional crowd came when it spent $13.7 billion to purchase Whole Foods in 2017. The results from the Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll explain why the e-commerce titan is so hot on this group: Chances are that the higher your income, the more frequently you’re ordering goods online.

Same goes for education levels: Among Americans with no higher than a high school education, 23% buy products online on a weekly basis, compared to 37% of respondents with a graduate degree or higher.

3. Brick-and-mortar still favored—if buyers have the time

After years of losing foot traffic, Payless ShoeSource announced earlier this year it would file for bankruptcy and shutter its remaining stores, adding its name to the list of dying retailers.

But brick-and-mortar isn’t dead in the water. In fact, shopping at physical stores is still preferred over online shopping by 55% of Americans. That number is actually highest for Gen Zers, with 63% favoring in-person shopping.

One big advantage physical stores still have over online stores is the ability for buyers to physically inspect an item. And when shopping for a new product, 78% of Americans say it’s important to physically see or try on that product.

One interesting number:


… of baby boomers always or almost always check online reviews when buying a product for the first-time. That figure is 52% for millennials, and 50% for Gen Xers. All three generations pay the most attention to extremely negative reviews.

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 8,448 adults in the U.S. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationInflationSupply ChainsLeadership