Amazon Emerges as Key Destination in Customers' Changing Journey to Buy Mobile Phones

CCS Insight survey indicates rapidly changing behaviour by consumers buying mobile phones in the UK and France.

Savvy customers are "cracking the code" by separating the purchase of smartphones and service plans.

The survey points to the growing influence of retailers without a strong pedigree in mobile, such as Amazon.

Strong usage of second-hand phones and pent-up demand for refurbished devices are also major trends in the research.

Migration to SIM-only plans is not necessarily a permanent move for all customers.


London, 6 September 2018: Today, analyst firm CCS Insight has released its inaugural survey of the purchasing journey for mobile phones and service plans. The survey found fascinating changes in customers' buying behaviour in the UK and France.

Savvy Customers "Cracking the Code"

As the dissociation of mobile phone and service plan purchases becomes more commonplace, the survey revealed how people are now much more aware of the different options available to them. More than half of SIM-only customers in the UK said they worked out that it would be better value to buy their phone and SIM card separately.

"We refer to this concept as 'cracking the code'", commented Kester Mann, principal analyst at CCS Insight. "People now have a far greater understanding of the true value of the different parts of a mobile service. In the past they significantly underestimated the real worth of a smartphone, which was traditionally heavily subsidised and bundled into operators' service plans".

New Players Taking a Greater Role

The survey also highlighted a shift to buy mobile phones from retailers that do not necessarily have a strong pedigree in the mobile market. For example, nearly 10 percent of respondents in the UK said they bought their primary mobile phone from Amazon. Other players such as Argos and eBay are also becoming more influential. This points to a shift in buying habits away from the traditional mobile operator channel.

In fact, Amazon is an important destination in the purchasing journey for many customers who ultimately buy their phone elsewhere. In the UK, one in three respondents who looked for their current mobile phone online visited Amazon as part of their research. This is a similar number to those who visited the websites of phone-makers such as Apple and Samsung, and specialist phone retailers like Carphone Warehouse.

The chart below shows the sites that respondents in the UK visited when researching their mobile phone.

You indicated that you researched your mobile phone online. Which sites did you consult? Select all that apply.
Respondents in the UK only. Sample: 315
Source: CCS Insight

Click on the image above for a larger version.

Growth of Second-Hand and Refurbished Devices

A significant one in every ten mobile phone users in the UK said that their primary device is a second-hand model. These are phones typically sold or passed on between friends or within a family. Overall usage is likely to be even higher, as many people also hold such devices as backup to their main handsets.

In addition, the survey indicated that refurbished phones currently represent about 4 percent of the UK market and showed that the segment holds good potential for growth. When asked whether they would prefer to own a brand-new phone released two years ago or a refurbished phone released one year ago, more than one in four people opted for the refurbished device.

Multiple factors will accelerate this trend. They include greater availability of refurbished devices, trade-in and leasing programmes, attractive SIM-only offers and the growing residual value of many smartphones.

Move to SIM-Only Deals Not Necessarily Permanent

Migration of customers to SIM-only offers for their mobile airtime was a clear trend in the research. Interestingly, however, 36 percent of UK SIM-only customers expect to take a traditional "contract with a phone" deal when they change or renew their current plan. This was notably higher than the proportion expecting to take out another SIM-only deal.

"This suggests that customers do not necessarily consider the shift to SIM-only plans as a permanent move," commented Mann. "It appears they would be open to taking a traditional phone contract again should the right combination of device and service plan tempt them to do so".

Notes to editors

The research was completed in July 2018. CCS Insight surveyed 2,023 mobile phone users, split evenly between the UK and France, representative of the population by age and gender.

The survey focussed on multiple elements of the purchase journey, including means to acquire a mobile phone, ways to buy airtime, brand loyalty and future buying intentions.

To receive a free report with detailed analysis of these and other themes please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

More details of CCS Insight's extensive mobile operators and mobile phone research services can be found at: https://www.ccsinsight.com/our-services

About CCS Insight

CCS Insight is a global analyst company focussing on current and future trends in technology. It provides comprehensive services that are tailored to meet the needs of individual clients, helping them make sense of the connected world. Follow @CCSInsight on Twitter or learn more at www.ccsinsight.com.

For further information contact:
Hollie Bridgland
Harvard PR
Tel: +44 20 7861 2842
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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