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updated 3/2/2012 1:56:08 PM ET 2012-03-02T18:56:08

Smartphones are giving new meaning to the term comparison shopping.

Whether they're seeking lower prices or better terms on an item they see on a store shelf, consumers are quickly learning that their smartphone can be used for more industrious tasks than playing Words With Friends or snapping and posting photos on Facebook.

Last year, more than half of U.S. smartphone users performed retail research while inside a brick-and-mortar store, with nearly one in eight using their phone to compare prices in real time, according to comScore's " 2012 Mobile Future in Focus " report. Tack on the fact that 42 percent of mobile cell users in the U.S. own a smartphone, as do 44 percent of European mobile-phone users, and that little stat may amount to a big-business loss for your bricks-and-mortar store. 

As smartphone adoption becomes more widespread, consumers are presented with mobile buying power once restricted to the home or work computer. Freed from the shackles of a desktop, shoppers can now stroll right into your operation, pull out their smartphone and start some serious comparative shopping. They can scan your merchandise, read reviews, ask friends for recommendations and share with you what they've found. And if they're not satisfied with your response, they locate a business that has better prices or service.

What this means for small-business owners is you and your staff have to get in front of smartphone-wielding consumers, ask a shopper if they're comparison shopping and offer a solution if it makes sense to do so. Conversely, rewarding shoppers who learn about your products or services through a mobile device may earn you a customer and their recommendation for life.

Among other findings in the comScore report:

  • During December of last year, 64.2 million U.S. smartphone users accessed social networking sites or blogs on their mobile devices at least once, with more than half reading posts from brands, organizations and event organizers.
  • Also in December of 2011, 20 percent of smartphone owners in the U.S. scanned a QR code.
  • Men and women display differing patterns of shopping-related behavior when it comes to smartphones. Women tend to use their smartphones to make shopping a more social experience as they take product pictures (24 percent), send them to family and friends (20 percent) and call or text people about a specific product (22 percent). Men are more likely to use their smartphone to scan a product barcode (20 percent), comparison shop (14 percent) and research product features (11 percent).

How has smartphone adoption among your customers helped or hurt your business? Leave a comment and let us know.

This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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