'Mobile' Shopping Is Not So 'Mobile' After All

As post-PC devices become the preferred access point for all kinds of interactive activities, the term "mobile" may require some redefinition and reconsideration among marketers. To wit: in its latest survey of shopping behaviors on devices, Nielsen finds that 95% of tablet shoppers and 72% of smartphone shoppers who actually use their devices to buy stuff are doing it on devices but in the home. TV prime time, it turns out, is mobile -- I mean device shopping time, with two-thirds of tablet shoppers and about 80% of tablet shoppers doing these activities more at home than out and about.

While the overwhelming majority of all shopping-related behaviors on tablets occurs in homes, a great number of smartphone users are engaging in pre-shopping and post-buy behaviors right alongside them. For instance, 86% of those writing product reviews on smartphones (19%) are at home, as are 71% of those posting comments on a product to a social network (19%). Even when it comes to reading product reviews, 62% of that smartphone activity is happening in the home.

The tablet is still the device of choice when it comes to buying an item, with 38% of owners saying they do so on tablets. But 24% of smartphone owners now say they use the smaller device to make purchases as well.   

Which is not to say that mobile isn’t, well, mobile. Price-checking is for handhelds out in the field, where 50% of these lookups occur. Store locators are most often accessed in the wild, with 56% occurring on smartphones when the user is commuting or in transit. Once out the door with a device, 70% of smartphone shoppers are using the device for planning and checking the store location. The shopping list has become a mobile fixture now for 37% of smartphone users.

It is worth noting that despite the homebody reputation of tablets, until now there is some evidence they are venturing beyond the front door. When Nielsen asked about using shopping lists, 30% of the 13% who use tablets for lists said they did so in-store.

The findings do more than just suggest that mobile is not mobile. First, of course, they remind us that home is where the device is most of the time and where people have the time and inclination to drill deep. They also remind us that devices have become the go-to point of entry for online information, replacing the most uncomfortable way yet devised for consuming content -- the desktop PC. But most of all, they remind us how much of shopping is an iterative, multi-screen process that occurs over time (according to category) and has both preparatory and post-buy stages. Mobile, apparently, is present at all of them.  

3 comments about "'Mobile' Shopping Is Not So 'Mobile' After All".
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  1. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, August 13, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.

    Perhaps it's time to stop calling them "mobile" devices and start calling them what they are: "personal devices." We carry them everywhere with us. And yes, watching TV, and they have a story about Cher. How old is she anyway? Out with the phone. The easiest way to order pizza? Pull out the phone, call up the Papa John's app. You still haven't gotten up from the sofa and 20 minutes later that same device will tell me the guy is outside waiting for me to come get my dinner from him. That's not mobile. That's a personal service device.

  2. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., August 13, 2013 at 5:09 p.m.

    this is no surprise to me. I was the consultant to AOL on the groundbreaking 7 shades of mobile first presented last October, where we found out that 70% of mobile isn't mobile! Of course, now we have even moved beyond that work, but it is good to see that others are finding that the SoLoMo story was a bit of "fiction" or at best, docudrama. To learn more, go here:

  3. Sharon Knitter from Sears, August 13, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.

    Personally, I don't think we will be using the term mobile in the near future. In-home, out-of-home, small screen, large screen, public vs private screen are all more descriptive of the context of usage.

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