An increase in familiarity with online retail has resulted in consumers preferring to shop for mobile plans and smartphones online, according to the U.S. division of the digital experience benchmarking firm, WUA, In fact, the platform now outstrips both telephone-based sales and in-store purchases in the U.S. According to WUA USA's June 2018 "Smartphone + Plan Digital Sales Scan Study," 70-percent of the study's participants used online research to decide on their phone and plan. That's compared to 26-percent which relied on in-store interactions and conversations with representatives over the phone. Meanwhile, just four percent of respondents are reportedly completely passive about the entire affair. The study also found 48-percent would prefer to make their next purchase online, and 52-percent would prefer to buy online in general instead of in-person.
The research also showed that for the U.S. it's not necessarily an even split across all carriers. In terms of digital sales rankings, the top three carriers were Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T – with scores of 79 points, 71 points, and 70 points, respectively. Sprint fell in just one point below AT&T in fourth place. Verizon also showed the highest preference rate, measured via a combination of sales conversions and discoverability. The remaining three major brands fell somewhere near the middle of the charts, but were beat out in conversions by a wide margin by U.S. Cellular. Sales conversions for MetroPCS and Best Buy also managed to outperform Sprint. All three of those smaller carriers were well behind the competition in terms of discoverability. Those figures don't tell the entire story either. When asked to select their preferred carrier prior to the study and comparing those figures after the study, AT&T experienced the greatest losses. In the former portion, as many as 28-percent claimed AT&T as their current and preferred provider but that number fell to just 16-percent in retrospect.
Conversely, the longevity of smartphones has reduced the number of devices carriers are able to sell. Around 16-percent of participants carry a paid-off phone over through plan renewal or to a new plan. 53-percent of the study group makes payments on both phones and plans, while 17-percent pay for the entire device at once.