Retailers need A-Game for smartphones

September 06, 2011

Smartphones get heavy use by owners to inform shopping; ethnic groups have higher penetration rates than whites.

More powerful, refined mobile marketing strategies could help retailers and brand marketers keep pace with Americans' surging use of smartphones, tablets and cells. With these technologies in hand, consumers already know more than ever as quickly as they need about products, prices and user reviews – and they push stores to consistently bring their A-Game.  

Mobile's effects on shopping seem bound to increase, and two recent studies yield insights about the population groups using smartphones, and the way people use smartphones compared with tablets. While marketers target, make browsing information convenient and suited to the smaller screens of smartphones, they also need larger-screen presentations for tablets, laptops and desktops in order to help seal the deal online, suggests F3.

Indeed, website visits occur mostly on smartphones, yet sales are completed on tablets like the iPad, according to Ability Commerce.  Data from three large e-commerce sites it serves showed vast gaps between tablet traffic and sales, according to an account by Internet Retailer. At one, iPad visits represented 13% of mobile traffic but 55.6% of mobile sales over a recent 30-day period; at a second, 21% of visits and 51% of sales; at a third, 50% of visits and 97% of sales.

Already, 35% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, and one-quarter of these owners do most of their online browsing on them, reports Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project senior research specialist Aaron Smith. Smartphone penetration is highest among the:
•    Affluent and well-educated (59% of households $75,000 and over, 48% with college degrees)
•    Comparatively young (58% within the 25-34 age group, 49% of those 18-24, and 44% of those 35-44)
•    Non-whites (44% of African-Americans and Latinos vs. 30% of whites)
•    Urban/suburban, 38% (about twice as likely as rural adults, 21%)

How do they use these smartphones, according to Pew?
•    87% search the Internet or e-mail, correlating to 30% of U.S. adults  (This behavior holds true for 74% of Hispanics, 67% of whites and 63% of African-Americans)
•    68% go online on a typical day, correlating to 23% of U.S. adults  
•    25% go online mostly using smartphone, correlating to 8% of U.S. adults

"Even among smartphone owners who use their phone as their main source of Internet access…84%...also have a desktop or laptop computer at home….Just 68% have broadband at home [which] means that 32% of these 'cell mostly' Internet users lack traditional high-speed access at home," stated the Pew report. It also noted that smartphone use for primary Internet access is highest among those with no college experience and relatively low income levels, because they have low broadband rates.

Different demographic groups have distinct platform preferences, the Pew research showed. Among their statistics:
•    26% of African-American cell owners said their device is Android vs. 16% of Latinos and 12% of whites.
•    26% of cell owners aged 18-24 own Androids, making this format about twice as popular within this age group as iPhones and triple that of Blackberry