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RISMEDIA, August 25, 2010—(MCT)—When students and their parents hit the shopping malls for their back-to-school needs this year, they should be armed with their lists—and their mobile phones. Retailers are promoting everything from jeans to pens and notebooks through emails and text messages as they gear up for the second-most-important shopping season of the year. And sales will be rampant as retailers battle for your hard-earned dollars.

“From a marketing standpoint, you need to be where they’re at, and teens spend more time on their mobile phones than on the Internet and than watching TV or reading,” said Tom Aiello, a spokesman for Sears Holdings, parent of Sears and Kmart stores.

Indeed, consumers are increasingly turning to their cell phones for wireless Internet access as well as for text messages and e-mails.

A whopping 95% of 18- to 29-year-olds who own cell phones send or receive text messages while 52% send e-mails, and 20% said they have purchased items through their phones, according to a recent study by the Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project.

But it’s not just the kids. Pew found that adults aged 30-49 are among the fastest-growing group using mobile-data applications.

Six of every 10 adults said they use their phones to access the Internet, a 12 percentage point increase from a 2009 survey. About 11% said they had used their phone to make a purchase. Some 10% use their phones to access their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

In a recent Deloitte survey, one in three respondents said they would use their phones or social media to help them make decisions about back-to-school purchases. A year ago, only 6% said they would use their phones.

Nearly 65% this year said they research promotions on their phones while another 42% said they would browse for products.

“Mobile devices have become a key part of the planning process of the shopping trip,” said Alison Paul, Deloitte’s retail sector leader.

Mobile coupons and text messages about good deals will be ubiquitous to teens if they opt in. J.C. Penney is putting interactive ads on an iPhone application in which consumers can look at new outfit combinations. Target is sending out scannable coupons that shoppers show at the cash register. Penney’s, Kohl’s and Best Buy will send text messages to promote sales while Kmart customers will find out about daily deals through text alerts. Stage Stores, which owns Bealls, Palais Royal, Peebles and Stage, is sending out discounts every two weeks through Sept. 1.

“These are door-buster kinds of deals on everything from apparel to notebooks and backpacks,” Aiello said of Kmart’s messages.

Not only do shoppers look to mobile phones for coupons and price comparisons, they’re beginning to use them to make purchases—what’s called m-commerce—with applications available on most iPhone platforms and increasingly on BlackBerry and Android platforms.

Sears and Kmart have the Sears2go and Kmart2go applications in which customers upload and tweet their back-to-school purchases. They also can access inventory on any item through GPS and zip code locaters at their local stores.

“Consumers are more open to different avenues of communication today,” Deloitte’s Paul said. “The mobile phone is a convenient tool for them.”

(c) 2010(c) 2010, MarketWatch.com Inc.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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