How mobile is changing our shopping world

Posted by Ryan Raubenheimer on

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By the end of this year over three quarters of Americans will own a smartphone and will spend over three hours each day utilising its convenience. They will use it to trawl social media, scour apps, make phone calls, seek information and finalise payments, all at the touch of a button, courtesy of a handheld device.

In addition, over half the population will have a tablet, embracing the new trend of TV on demand and working on the go.

It’s the realization of a truly mobile society, and here’s a little insight into how it all shapes up…

The statistics

According to research by Pew, 77% of Americans now own a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011.

And in further statistics from GeoMarketing they’re spending more time on it than ever before.

Their figures indicate in the past year, consumers have increased their smartphone usage by seven minutes, taking the daily total to 3hrs 15mins. That’s come at the expense of time spent on a desktop which decreased by one minute, and time spent watching TV, which dropped by seven minutes in the last 12 months.

But despite spending less time on traditional IT platforms, many still own one with 80% of Americans having either laptop or desktop computer. In addition, roughly half own a tablet.

So if they’re replacing our laptops and consuming so much time, what are we so busy using these mobile devices to do, and how does it relate to retail?

Social media

GeoMarketing notes 20 minutes of that three hours plus spent on a smartphone is time on social media, checking in, touching base and generally seeing how the other half lives.

In the big scheme of things that may not seem much, but as Forbes explains, social media plays a major role in inspiring purchases, with Likes and Shares driving up sales, particularly in holiday seasons.

"We see many fashion, jewelry and health-related merchants using Facebook Dynamic Ads to retarget shoppers who have already visited their site, "reminding" them of products they’ve looked at. This tactic has increased traffic for many of our merchants.”

Now that Facebook has implemented “buy now” prompts and also owns Instagram, retailers can leverage its new product ads program to gain exposure among its base of 90 million Americans.

Meanwhile further statistics highlight social media’s immense consumer power:

  • Online adults aged 18-34 are most likely follow a brand via social networking (95%). (Source: MarketingSherpa)
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. (Source: Ambassador)
  • There are65 billion active mobile social accounts globally with 1 million new active mobile social users added every day. (Source: We Are Social)
  • 96% of the peoplethat discuss brands online do not follow those brands’ owned profiles. (Source: Brandwatch) Digital wallet


The power of social media might be growing but apps have arguably come into their own. EMarketer explains smartphone and tablet users are now spending 3 hours and 23 minutes each day using applications.

From banking, and shopping to work-related apps, it’s coming at the expense of traditional web browsing which is holding firm at 50 minutes while app usage continues to rise.

For retailers looking to harness the power of the app, it’s all about convenience and again it’s Forbes that says it best, explaining:

“Shoppers are more likely to use apps that provide unique value. Macy’s, for example, focuses on unique discounts to satisfy its deal-seeking core users.

“By contrast, Neiman Marcus focuses on highly personalized recommendations for their less price-sensitive customers. Such brand-aligned app offerings help cement core brand equities with loyalist shoppers.”

Digital wallet

But we’re not just using mobile technology to source the best deal, we’re using it to buy it, with the digital wallet next on the list of smartphone “can-dos”.

Statista notes 2016 saw a massive uptake in the use of near-field communication and the digital wallet. The industry ballooned in growth by 183.3%. That was partly due to the US EMV liability shift but also the subsiding of security concerns.

And the trend is only set to increase further. This year digital wallet growth is tipped to reach 125.8%, and in 2018 will continue at 85.4%.

Working on the go

It’s not all play and pay in our increasingly mobile world. A very real use of smartphone and particularly tablets comes in the form of working on the go. In retail this specifically relates to the use of mobile technology (both tablets and smartphones) to perform a role once reserved for highly specialised IT - the point of sale.

Once confined to static cash registers, the now mobile Point of Sale allows retailers to take the register to the consumer, providing better customer service and shortening time in the queue.

It’s also a movement which is only set to increase, according to Forbes, 87% of retailers will deploy mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) over the next four years.

Meanwhile Global Market Insights states mPOS is poised to grow at 17.8% CAGR from 2016 to 2023 creating value for retailers that leads to more “converged and integrated store solutions”.

The final word

That nifty little smartphone, well it isn't going anywhere. In fact it’s only becoming more entrenched in our day-to-day world. It facilitates our social lives, enables us to work, and once we’re done earning let’s us spend that hard-earned cash. For retailers that means embracing the trend that is fast becoming a mobile first world.


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