Commentary

Can Moms Shop Smart Without Their Smartphones?

Recently, we presented a group of moms with a challenge that made them shudder with dread. It may not have been as painful as childbirth or as stressful as sleep training, but it did require them to tap into their deepest reserves of maternal strength and courage.

We asked them to go one week without their smartphones.

Sacrifice In The Name Of Science

Mind you, we didn’t do this lightly. Moms have enough to deal with – we don’t believe in torturing them unnecessarily. But as part of our 2015 Mobile Mom Report, we wanted to be sure we really understood the role mobile devices play in moms’ everyday lives. Are they time-sucking distractions that create more stress than they alleviate? Or have they become indispensable tools that moms truly can’t live without?

We followed the group of mobile-deprived moms on webcam videos, online discussions, and daily journals, listening to their observations and feedback throughout the week. The results were clear: Living without a mobile device is more stressful than living with one – especially when it comes to shopping. 

“Honestly, it was the most stressful shopping trip I have had in a while,” recalled one mom about a smartphone-free outing with her children. “I just wanted to get in and out as fast as possible.” 

Another mom described the store as a “torture chamber”: “Finally arrive back home and swear we will NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!”

Moms complained that they couldn’t compare prices or read reviews while they were in the store, and said they resented having to juggle paper shopping lists and coupons. They also longed for a device to distract their kids when they got bored or irritated. 

As Indispensable As Shopping Carts

The experiment confirmed trends we saw in the rest of the survey, which showed that mobile usage within brick-and-mortar stores is at an all-time high. 70% of moms reported using their mobile devices in-store, with 64% saying they use their phones primarily to scan for coupons and 51% saying they use apps to compare prices among retailers. 55% reported that they usually buy a product in-store immediately after scanning it with their smartphone, and 48% said they will purchase a product on their phone if it’s not available in the store.

Room For Improvement

Despite moms’ almost overwhelming need to shop with a mobile device in-hand, retailers have still not fully embraced this trend. An Accenture study from earlier this year noted that we’re still far from the consumer’s ideal when it comes to the “seamless retail experience.” For example, the study found that while a large percentage of consumers would like to start the shopping process on their mobile devices and complete the transaction in-store, a minority of retailers make this possible.

The Accenture study also called for frictionless digital payment tools, noting the importance of making the path to purchase as convenient as possible. Our report reinforced this advice: 59% of moms said the biggest issue with mobile shopping transactions is that “it can be a pain to type so much info into my phone for purchases.” 

In an ideal world, a customer could scan an item in-store, read reviews on the spot, receive coupons, pay electronically, and have her loyalty program automatically updated – all before her kids reach their shopping threshold. Mobile-enabled shopping may not be quite this sophisticated yet, but it’s on its way. And as any mom will tell you, it’s a lot better than the horrifying alternative: shopping with no phone at all.

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