Smartphones turn UK into nation of impulse buyers

More than 17 million Britons  now regularly shop via mobile phone. Picture: TSPL
More than 17 million Britons now regularly shop via mobile phone. Picture: TSPL
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British shoppers are among the most impulsive in Europe thanks to the popularity of smartphones and tablets, 
according to a new report.

More than two fifths of people use their devices to shop, while a third use mobile banking as more shun cash in the pocket for a “digital” wallet.

More than 17 million Britons – among 139 million Europeans – now regularly shop via mobile phone, with 44 per cent admitting they regularly buy “on impulse,” compared to just 25 per cent of other consumers.

Consumer experts believe that the ability to shop without carrying out the physical act of handing over a credit or debit card can make people more likely to shop without considering the financial consequences.

The study of European consumers by global financial group ING found clothing tops mobile shoppers’ hit lists – accounting for nearly a quarter of items purchased. A fifth bought electronics, while an eighth purchased games, holidays, music and 

However, the Dutch embrace the new technology most, with almost half banking on their smartphone. Fewer than one in five people in France do so.

The study, Financial Empowerment in the Digital Age, found mobile money management is also contributing to a cashless generation, with nearly half of Europeans saying they use physical cash less often then they did 12 months ago. Two out of five now claim they rarely use it and the trend looks set to continue, with almost half of consumers predicting that they will use less cash in the next 12 months.

Many claim digital has also made it easier to manage money, with almost a third claiming it has helped them keep on top of bills and other expenses, while a quarter claim to have never missed a payment since using mobile banking.

Senior economist Ian Bright said: “Technology is changing the way that people bank and manage money. Mobile banking is becoming more common across Europe and more people are prepared to pay for things using cashless methods.

“In terms of long-term economic trends, the growth of smartphone use and acceptance of technology is likely to hasten the growth of cashless payments. It is possible that more retailers or venues may not accept cash in the next decade.”

UK consumers are more suspicious of contactless payments, compared to countries such as Poland and Romania, which were early adopters of the technology which lets people pay for low-cost items without entering a pin number.

Europe-wide, of people who use mobile banking, 46 per cent are confident their money is secure with contactless payments.

However, few people in Europe see digital currencies – such as Bitcoin – as the future of spending online. More than three quarters did not believe it was a viable future option.

ING surveyed 12,403 people in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the UK.