Moms Mobilized: Smartphones Prominent In Back-To-School Planning

Apple-on-a-school-deskLike every other American ritual, the planning, coordinating and shopping related to back-to-school is being impacted by mobile media. Almost all (85%) of smartphone-wielding moms say their devices are helping to relieve some of the stress of getting those kids clothed, supplied and on their way to opening day.

A new survey from the IAB’s Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence and Meredith’s Parents Network, “Moms Go Back-To-School with Mobile” shows that peer-to-peer communications and organization are the key uses of smartphones during this time, but mobile is playing a role in the shopping routines as well.

Not surprisingly, taking pictures was the most popular mobile phone activity by far among 40% of all moms. But from there it is all about communication…and shopping.

Mobilized back-to-school activity is clearly at a critical mass. The report finds that a third (33%) of all moms, with or without mobile devices, use mobile phones to communicate with teachers and school and to organize family calendars. Almost as many (28%) are sharing relevant information with members of their social network or communicating with other parents in their social circle (26%).

The persistent importance of mobile devices as peer-to-peer and social sharing tools underscores the need for mobile marketers to have a diverse approach to reaching these audiences, says Joe Laszlo, senior director, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, IAB. “Just as we have seen on the PC-based Internet, a savvy combination of paid media and earned media makes sure you are listening to the conversations about your brand and in a sensitive way being a part of the conversation.”

The m-commerce impulse is strong with moms under school stress, too. A quarter of those surveyed are using their smartphones to find coupons and store discounts. Around a fifth are using phones to make shopping lists (21%) or to shop (20%). Lower on the mobile phone usage list, however, is store locators (16%) and actually managing or organizing coupons (12%). Although one critical shopping necessity is well covered by mobile -- keeping the kids busy and distracted from the pain. Using a smartphone to keep the children entertained while shopping is popular among 18% of all moms.

When the universe of moms is narrowed down to smartphone owners only, the reliance on mobile for back-to-school activity is even more striking. Almost half (49%) of moms with 2 kids and a smartphone are using the device to find coupons or store discounts, for instance. And according to the number of children in the house of school age, between 36% and 39% of mobilized moms are using the device to shop online. 

In part a function of demographics and in part related to the sheer demands of younger kids, the survey did find that the younger the children, the greater the reliance on mobile media. Moms of pre-schoolers, for instance, are much more likely to share on social networks (41%) than are parents of an elementary school child (32%) or high schooler (21%). Mobile calendaring is also considerably more prevalent among pre-school parents (48%) than others.

“That the heaviest users of mobile devices have preschoolers reinforces the fact that there is a big wave of younger moms that are using devices,“ says Todd Tarpley, general manager, parents, network digital at Meredith. This is the generation of moms that will bring these behaviors forward as their kids age, he expects. “They are at the leading edge. They are very mobile-savvy, and it changes the way we have to deal with them.” Mobile visitors to Meredith Parents Network sites -- which includes,, and -- have doubled in just the last 8 months, he adds. Recently was relaunched using a responsive design model that adjusts the layout of the same content for smartphone, tablet and Web browsers.  

While stress is a motivator for relying on mobile, the study did not find that the number of children had much of an affect on mobile use. In fact, moms with two children were actually more inclined to agree that smartphones make being a mom easier (88%) than are moms with one child (84%) or with three (89%).

The full study with detailed breakdowns of smartphone use by moms broken down by school age and number of children at school is available at the IAB. An infographic is available as well.  

2 comments about "Moms Mobilized: Smartphones Prominent In Back-To-School Planning ".
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  1. linux guy from nonprofit, August 30, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.

    Good article. Also, there are a growing number of pre-teens using low priced Android based phones. There are many apps that can give Moms piece of mind knowing where their children are. For example:

  2. Niki Staehle from Brown Financial, August 31, 2012 at 5:51 p.m.

    Interesting study and useful finds. I wouldn't have guessed alot of these. Our app, Best Decision, provides an easy way for moms to save money on this very thing. It's easy to set your preferences and search for back-to-school items. Best Decision picks up the best results both locally and online. Try it out:

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