LONDON: Almost three quarters of UK adult consumers now own a smartphone and over half of them are using the device to research and buy goods, a new survey has found.

Deloitte, the consultancy, commissioned independent research from TNS, involving more than 1,000 adults who were polled online during May 2013, and found that 72% owned a smartphone, up from just 58% just ten months earlier.

In addition, some 57% had used a smartphone to check product availability and 50% had used it to buy goods.

"The exponential rise in UK consumer's reliance on smartphones means mobile must become a priority for retailers," declared Ian Geddes, head of UK retail at Deloitte.

"Customer experience, brand loyalty and ultimately sales will all increasingly stem from the mobile channel," he added.

Generation Y is leading the charge, with nearly 90% of 25-34 year olds possessing a smartphone, and Deloitte urged retailers to align their channels to meet the demands of these technology-savvy shoppers

One of the ways they are doing this is through the use of apps, which Deloitte found were increasingly being used to engage consumers, although a generational gap was evident.

Some 48% of Generation Z, those aged 16-24, chose to shop via apps, but just 14% of 45-64 year olds did.

But one of the great advantages of smartphones from a marketing point of view – its ability to deliver personalised content – was less welcome as far as consumers were concerned. Just 21% of respondents were happy to receive such communications.

They were, however, more open to the opportunities offered by the smartphone's ability to identify their location, as 40% welcomed search results that were relevant to their whereabouts.

Geddes warned that while personalisation could build brand loyalty, "push marketing can be seen as intrusive and consumers can sometimes feel bombarded". Those retailers who could find the right balance, he suggested, would "reap the benefits of a loyal customer".

Along with the uptake of smartphones, UK consumers were also starting to embrace mobile payments, with 31% having used an online wallet.

"This is the year that mobile moves from a project run by the IT department to a strategic priority in the boardroom," concluded Geddes.

Data sourced from Deloitte; additional content by Warc staff