Dan“More than half of adult cell phone owners used their cell phones while they were in a store during the 2011 holiday season to seek help with purchasing decisions.”

This is the quote I have seen repeatedly across the web since the Pew Research Study “The rise of in-store mobile commerce” was released on January 30th. This quote, when taken out of context of the remainder of the report, is misleading. Mobile adoption for in-store experiences is not 50%!

Let’s be clear on what the research says: 52% of people used their mobile devices at least once in store during  a 30 day period. And, they used their devices to perform such tasks as call a friend for advice, look up review, or look up a price. Only 33% used their phone specifically for online information while inside a physical store—either product reviews or pricing information; again, at least once in a 30 day period.

Even with these caveats, these numbers should be questioned:

First of all, this was the holiday season, where shopping is far different than the rest of the year. People are (mostly) shopping for others. The fact that they would call a friend or family member is probably more likely during this time of year to get gift ideas, remember a size, or get input.

Second, if you have visited a mall or a big box store lately and looked for people using mobile phones while shopping, you would know that people don’t. In fact, with the introduction of Amazon Price Checker, it is a bit awkward to have your smartphone out. If you scan something then the sales associates assume you are price checking and may ignore you or give you a dirty look. Besides, using a phone is too hard when you are actually shopping. You want to touch items and having your phone in hand makes that hard.

Bottom line, don’t believe the hype. Mobile has promise, but the belief that everyone is out there using their phones in stores is simply not true. While a phone can be a useful tool in some situations, people are still shopping in stores the old fashioned way and mobile has a long way to go.