The important role merchants expect mobiles to play in their businesses and the lives of their customers has been reinforced in the results of a new survey.

The annual e-tailing group Merchant Survey, completed by 200 merchants in the US in the first quarter of 2011, which studies in the shopping mindset of the mobile consumer, found that 77 per cent of respondents will be investing in mobile in 2011.

Half of those merchants plan to spend $50,000 or less and 15 per cent will be spending over $100,000 with the remainder falling in the middle-ground.

Lauren Freedman, the e-tailing group president, said that consumers are leading the change when it comes to mobile shopping.

“It is important to remember that we are still in the early days of mobile with unprecedented adoption projected over time. Just as ecommerce has become ingrained into our culture, so too will mobile shopping transform consumer shopping behaviour forever,” she said.

The survey found that 52 per cent of respondents owned a smart phone and more than 50 per cent used it to buy and browse. Within the gender category, 59 per cent of consumers that use smart phones to shop were female versus 41 per cent being male users.

Per the research 57 per cent of consumers surveyed have downloaded individual retailer or aggregator services.

“Perhaps as more retail apps are introduced consumers will show greater interest but single store usage may prove to be significant mostly for top merchants such as Amazon and eBay,” Freedman said.

Smart phone users have followed similar trends with frequent usage of store locators seen by 44 per cent of respondents while one-in-three consumers take an aggressive stance when researching. This includes information gathering activities such as checking for sales and specials (40 per cent) and looking for competitive pricing at Amazon (38 per cent) or at other retailers (32 per cent). Strong browsing of an online store for product of interest (37 per cent), and seeking out the always popular product ratings and reviews (36 per cent) play an important role in this early shopping stage.

But there is still room for improvements as shoppers suggest that smart phone usability is still awkward (49 per cent) while credit card security (36 per cent) and connection speeds (31 per cent) top the list of challenges for retailers to overcome.