Back in the “old days,” we made purchases by going to the store or ordering from a catalogue – do you remember everyone’s excitement when the L.L. Bean catalog was delivered? Or when your daughter’s American Girl Doll catalog arrived and she would circle every item she wanted for her birthday? Today, with smartphones, wearables, tablets, laptops and desktop computers, in addition to physical stores, there’s a plethora of ways to browse, research and ultimately buy items. Shopping has changed completely; consumers have varying preferences, and we must adapt. To better understand how preferences vary across geographies, our marketing team recently conducted a study that looked at which devices consumers in Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) use when shopping and purchasing. 

Notable Trends

Consumers today own more devices than ever before – but not all age groups and regions are using the same devices to shop. Our report, “How Consumers Across the Globe Use Multiple Devices to Shop and Buy,” found that, on average, consumers in each of the countries own three of the five devices examined (wearable, smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet) but they only use one or two of them to make online purchases. That usage shifts dramatically across countries:
  • Australian consumers use only one device on average for making an online purchase compared to 1.6 devices in the UK and 1.8 devices in the US.
  • Across all geographies studied, men own more devices than women.
As the expectation for omnichannel retail experiences increase, it’s becoming crucial that we better understand which devices are preferred and how each is being used by different consumer demographics.

Which Devices Rule

In Australia, smartphones are the most popular and prevalent device:
  • Nearly 90% of Australians aged 18-64 own a smartphone. Only the 65+ age group has yet to fully embrace the smartphone.
However, in the US, while one might suspect that the smartphone is the most popular device, it is in fact the laptop:
  • In the US, 80% of consumers own a laptop compared to 75% who own a smartphone. The US also has the highest ownership of desktops (66%) and wearables (13%).
In the UK, consumers love their tablets:
  • Consumers in the UK have a higher level of tablet ownership (60%) than either Australia (54%) or the US (57%). They also use them more frequently when making a purchase – 30% of the time, compared with 25% (US) and 19% (Australia). It would be nice if tablet ownership was correlated with purchases on the device, but our research found this is not the case.

Purchasing Patterns

While Australia has the greatest level of smartphone ownership, only 30% have used one to make a purchase. In comparison, 38% and 37% of consumers in the US and UK respectively have purchased online with a smartphone. However, age is a strong indicator of purchase affinity. In all three countries, younger shoppers were found to be more likely to purchase online using a smartphone. In the US and the UK, two-thirds of consumers 18-24 years old have made a purchase using a smartphone versus just over half of the same age group in Australia. Continuing to look at demographics, the study also found that American men love mobile shopping. In Australia and the UK, men and women have identical preferences for purchasing with a smartphone. However, in the US, men are considerably more likely to purchase using a smartphone (43%) than women (35%).


The bottom line: To succeed in today’s omnichannel marketplace, we must ensure that the shopping experience – from browsing to buying – is tailored to the audience. Understanding and adjusting strategies based on audience differences can help focus our campaigns to generate meaningful results. If you’re interested in country-specific findings from our recent research, see:
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Report Methodology In January 2016, Bronto surveyed consumers in Australia, the UK and the US about their mobile device ownership and use for online shopping and purchasing to learn more about how retailers can effectively connect with customers in a multi-device, omnichannel world. Bronto partnered with Ipsos, a global market research company, to survey 1,000 Australian consumers and 1000 US consumers with access to at least one of the devices examined. Bronto also partnered with Censuswide, a global market research company, to survey 2,005 consumers in the United Kingdom with access to at least one of the devices examined.