Browsing, Buying or Both? An Analysis of Mobile Shopping Behavior Across Generations
Mobile technology’s advances allow us to shop anywhere at any time, including in-store. The way we research products, comparison shop and ultimately buy has all been transformed. However, it’s not enough to know that consumers are increasingly using mobile; it’s important to know how. Is it a popular choice for browsing, buying or both? In our recent report on mobile shopping behavior, we set out to answer those questions. Partnering with Imperium and Precision Sample, we conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers. Much of our analysis focused on three demographics: millennials (ages 18-34), Gen Xers (ages 35-54) and baby boomers (ages 55 and above).
Mind the Generation Gap
Even though mobile shopping is on the rise, our research shows a gap between each generation. Unsurprisingly, millennials are at the vanguard of mobile purchases. Nearly all those surveyed (92 percent) have made a purchase via their phone, while 75 percent of Gen Xers and just 33 percent of baby boomers have done so.
It might seem that baby boomers aren’t as engaged with mobile as their more junior counterparts, but consider this: Baby boomers spend more than $3 trillion annually, so the one-third shopping from their mobile phones shouldn’t be discounted.
A Popular Choice for Parents
One of the most striking differences between those who purchase using a mobile phone and those who don’t is the presence of children in the household. Eighty-six percent of respondents with children under the age of 18 have purchased using a mobile device vs. 55 percent of those without. Additionally, 36 percent of respondents with children made their first purchase during the month before taking the survey.
Another striking detail: 40 percent percent of millennials and 25 percent of Gen Xers also reported making their first purchase via mobile during that time. This recent, rapid adoption suggests a couple of things going on behind the scenes. Sellers are finally fully optimizing their websites, so it’s becoming easier to shop and buy from a mobile device. And consumers — at least younger ones — are increasingly using their mobile phones like they once used laptops.
Hunting for the Best Deals
Consumers don’t just use their mobile devices to make purchases; they’re also using them to help them shop — i.e., trying to get the best deal possible. According to our research, the top use of mobile phones by U.S. consumers while shopping in stores include looking up promotions or discounts (35 percent) and comparing prices online vs. in-store (34 percent). Consumers are on the hunt, and they’re looking for the best price.
Again, the research shows some demographic-dependent disparity. While nearly half of all millennials use their mobile phone to search for a better deal, only about 20 percent of baby boomers do so. It’s tempting to assume that as annual income increases, shopping for best value or price becomes less important, but our results suggest otherwise. In fact, as annual income increases, price becomes increasingly important, and consumers with higher incomes are more likely to look for coupons and comparison shop on their mobile devices than those earning less.
The Many Uses for Mobile
Mobile shopping behavior isn’t just confined to browsing or buying. Thirty-three percent of consumers say they use their devices to look up product information, 32 percent say they read product reviews, and 27 percent access loyalty apps and use their devices to take pictures to remember products later.
That behavior is further amplified in households with children. More than twice as many respondents with children (45 percent) use a loyalty app in-store vs. those without children (19 percent). They’re also more eager to read about the product while in-store (42 percent) compared to just 30 percent of those without children, and 44 percent explore product reviews, much higher than the 27 percent of respondents with no children in the home.
Let the Data Drive Your Strategy
It used to be that mobile shopping was considered a novelty, but a shift in consumer behavior has rendered that outlook outdated. As mobile shopping becomes more mainstream, the expectation that the experience is fast, helpful and easy is growing.
Gone are the days of physically visiting multiple stores to comparison shop. Fumbling through crumpled ads and clipping coupons have given way to mobile apps and weekly emails. And customers aren’t willing to go back to those days.
Shoppers today expect more than just comfort and convenience. It’s no longer enough to focus your strategy on price alone. While cost is certainly still important, staying competitive now involves so much more. Think about what your brand offers that would compel a shopper to purchase even if price comparison suggests other options. You may not be able to win the price war every time, but perhaps you offer same-day delivery? Hassle-free returns? An easy way for customers to buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS)?
Regardless of the strategy you take, it’s now more important than ever to understand your shoppers’ needs. What’s important to them? How do they use mobile to purchase from you? And why do they keep coming back? The answers to these questions are the first steps toward greater success.
Susan Wall is the vice president of marketing for Oracle + Bronto, and is responsible for all marketing strategy, lead generation, branding and positioning initiatives.
Related story: Why Mobile-First is Imperative for Omnichannel Retailers