JOHANNESBURG: Almost all South Africans own a mobile phone, most will use it for product research and half will check prices while in-store, but traditional media – especially television – remain crucial to influencing purchasing decisions, a study says.

The Digital Influence in South Africa Report was based on a survey of more than 1,500 connected South Africans for social media ad tech company Popimedia.

This found that the nation's consumers are increasingly attached to their mobile devices in all sorts of ways, including while shopping. Some 85% compared prices online while out of store and 47% did so in-store; further, 37% used their phone to check for a discount code or coupon in-store.

While such statistics might indicate the need for marketers to consider diverting more resources to mobile that is not necessarily the case.

"Brands looking to adopt a mobile-only approach may be short-changing their marketing efforts," according to Gil Sperling, co-founder and CTO at Popimedia.

"While most people have a screen on them at all times and, unlike TV, can control what they want to watch, findings from the Digital Influence study indicate that a combined approach that blends traditional media with mobile and digital media is the most effective," he told ITWeb.

A greater proportion of respondents said they saw things that made them want to buy more on the web (59%) rather than on TV (40%); Facebook (31%) was also a significant media channel, Instagram (9%) less so.

But those effects differed markedly depending on category. "Facebook and Instagram influenced fashion and tech product purchases most and overwhelmingly so, with TV and websites more central in home décor, automotive and appliance purchases," Sperling noted.

"More importantly, though, these trends are indicative of what is potentially the most prolific retail trend at present, whereby consumers are increasingly blending their online and offline shopping experiences," he added.

The majority of purchases are still made in brick-and-mortar shops , but – in addition to price checking online – over three quarters of respondents read online reviews before buying items, frequently while in-store.

Data sourced from Popimedia, ITWeb; additional content by WARC staff