While the use of tablets and smartphones has skyrocketed in recent years, the big quandary for marketers has been figuring out why it's taking so long for mobile buying behavior to follow suit. Certainly, mobile shopping is not accelerating at the same rate as general digital media, but according to a study conducted by Bronto and Ipsos, the device preferences of online U.S. shoppers is indeed evolving — and the trends reveal clues as to the future of mobile shopping and buying.
In the early 2015 study, online shoppers were asked about the devices they own and how they use them, with results broken out by gender, age and U.S. region.
Overall, in terms of device ownership, desktop and laptop computers continue to be most prevalent in the homes of online shoppers. And yet desktop and laptop ownership declined by 4 percent and 2 percent respectively year-over-year. Meanwhile, in 2015, both tablets and smartphones breached the 50 percent ownership threshold for the first time. Smartphone ownership jumped 12 percent from the previous year and tablet ownership grew 13 percent.
For many marketers, the most useful findings from the study may relate to the contrasts in ownership and usage by age group.
In terms of ownership, laptops are clearly the most prevalent device for shoppers under 65, while those 65 and older favor desktops (72 percent own them), with laptops close behind (63 percent). After laptops, the next most owned device for shoppers under 40 is a smartphone. In fact, in the 18-29 age group, 77 percent own smartphones compared with 43 percent of seniors.
And yet the 65 and older set are by no means resisting the mobile movement. The number of seniors who say they own tablets jumped from 35 percent in 2014 to 41 percent this year, and smartphones went from 26 percent ownership to 43 percent.
The sweeping behavioral changes brought about by mobile tech, however, have not yet carried through to the shopping and buying habits of U.S. consumers. According to the study, laptops and desktops are still strongly preferred as the primary device for shopping and buying across all ages.
Overall, 63 percent of those surveyed prefer to buy with desktops and 62 percent prefer laptops. That contrasts with just 10 percent for smartphones and 7 percent for tablets.
Smartphone and tablet preferences, understandably, are strongest for those under 40, with smartphones the more commonly used of the two. Twenty-three percent of online shoppers ages 18-29 prefer shopping on a smartphone, and one in five prefer shopping on a tablet.
Although the migration to mobile shopping and buying may seem glacially slow to marketers, it appears inevitable. As generations, young and old, integrate mobile into every aspect of their lives, seamless mobile shopping is becoming an expectation. As mobile payment methods gain adoption and designers optimize the mobile user experience, mobile shopping and buying stats will no doubt catch up with device ownership. The writing is on the wall.
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