Retailers must answer the call to make mobile shopping easier and more engaging or they risk getting disconnected from the majority of mobile device users.

While 89.7 per cent of the United States population aged 18 to 64 have mobile phones, only 49.1 per cent are using their phones to shop, according to Arc Worldwide, the marketing services arm of advertising agency Leo Burnett.

Mobile shoppers are using phone-friendly versions of websites and apps to compare prices, read reviews, check out product features, download coupons and make purchases.

Shoppers who used to research big purchases for days can now look up information in a matter of minutes on their phones, while impulsive purchases, such as buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks, can become more considered if people use apps to find a shop, check nutrition data or pay by phone.

“It’s going to be hard to find a category that is not impacted by mobile shopping,” said William Rosen, president and chief creative officer of Arc Worldwide.

The company surveyed 1,800 U.S. mobile shoppers and found 80 per cent are “light” mobile shoppers, who use their phones less often than the 20 per cent of “heavy” users that many apps are geared toward.

“If these light mobile shoppers really start engaging and evolve into heavier mobile shoppers, that’s going to increase the mobile shopping population by 50 per cent,” said Molly Garris, digital strategy manager at Arc Worldwide.

Increasing sales of smartphones have implications for retailers ranging from sites such as to more traditional outlets such as Macy’s, said Rosen.

“The idea of a single path to purchase is dead,” he said. “There are many paths to purchase, and mobile technology is enabling people to shop in different ways, (and) take different routes to a transaction, than we’ve ever seen before.”

According to Arc Worldwide, retailers and manufacturers should promote their mobile presence in traditional media and in stores to keep shoppers from heading elsewhere.

“There is the risk of them using someone else’s app and literally getting snatched out of the aisle,” Rosen said.

Fifty-one per cent of shoppers are more likely to buy from retailers with mobilespecific websites, yet only 4.8 per cent of retailers had them, according to a November report from Brand Anywhere and Luth Research.

Some retailers already do a great job by offering creative apps that heavy users of mobile technology download to their phones, and mobile versions of websites for light users, Garris said.

Plus, as smartphones become more popular, the 40.6 per cent of adults with mobile phones who do not yet use them for shopping are a huge group that retailers can target.