Marketers thought Americans spend as much time online as they do watching television, but a Forrester study released Monday confirms it.
The average U.S. household watches 13 hours weekly of traditional broadcast TV, equaling the same amount of hours spent online, according to "Understanding The Changing Needs Of The US Online Consumer, 2010." The report, released Monday, bases the findings on Forrester's survey of more than 30,000 consumers.
While Gen Yers, ages 18 to 30, spent equal or more time with the Internet, this is the first year where Gen Xers ages 31 to 44 joined the trend. Younger Boomers, ages 45 to 54, also now spend an equal amount of time with both media. The amount of time spent watching TV has remained constant in the past five years, but Internet use rose 121% since 2005.
Mobile devices spurred the trend. The percentage of mobile users who report texting on a monthly basis jumped from 54% to 61%, with an increasing amount of older users communicating beyond phone calls. In fact, one-quarter of online mobile owners now log on to the mobile Internet. More than one-third of Gen Yers online mobile consumers connect at least monthly. About 200 million consumers now access their Facebook page through a mobile device globally, according to Forrester.
Search anywhere, any time has become a major attraction for mobile users. About 16% of online mobile users now use their mobile phone to check news, sports, or weather, and 13% look up directions or maps. When Forrester analyzed individuals who access the mobile Internet at least weekly, the numbers skyrocketed to 60% and 52%, respectively.
Some mobile users go online for knowledge to gain the most updated information, whether it's checking fantasy sports scores on Yahoo or the latest news on CNN. These mobile users are most likely male and college-educated, and their average household income is more than $92,000.
It appears that marketers have begun to understand the value of these behaviors. The study finds nearly one-quarter of U.S. interactive marketers plan to pilot mobile search programs in the next 12 months.
Shopping also attracts consumers online. In 2010, 60% of consumers shop online, up from slightly more than one-third in 2007. Similar to email, Forrester suggests that consumers are familiar with the task and based on a behavior they already do. Interestingly, the barriers of moving this offline behavior online are higher than for other replacement activities like email, but don't require learning a brand-new behavior.
Gen Xers fuel the adoption of shopping online, with 68% participating in the activity. Although fewer Boomers buy online, they outspend Gen Xers by more than $4.5 billion a year.
Aside from buying stuff online, the use of social networks has seen the biggest jump in adoption since 2007. In fact, they connect 62 million U.S. adults, according to Forrester. Gen Yers are the biggest social network users, with nearly two-thirds reporting they update or maintain a social networking site profile at least monthly.