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There has been a lot of research on "crossing the chasm" and how technology moves from early adopters to mainstream consumers. With previous technology devices like PCs, much of the migration has been influenced by business and work at home adoption. In the case of mobile devices, it appears that multi-tasking moms are the leading edge of driving smartphone usage. As I watched the mother of my twin granddaughters managing three kids less than 3 years, there is no question why moms lead. What does this trend mean for mobile marketers and retailers?

I was referred to a recent eMarketer post about mobility marketing. The referral was by a mom making the case that I should blog about moms and mobility adoption. I had never given much thought to which consumer segments are leading the way in mobility devices. After reading the post "Social Moms Lead the Way to Mobile," it was one of those "well duh" moments. Mom's frenetic lifestyle today is a natural fit with the need for mobile access.

Moms are still the ultimate multi-taskers. While more fathers are more actively engaged in rearing children, it is mom who still seems to be the "Hub" and constant organizer of the family and the activities. The "mini-van" has literally become a home on wheels, as the family shuttles kids to school and countless activities. And, what better way to stay connected and optimize time than to connect via mobile devices.

Moms are power smartphone users leading the way toward mobile first

At least in the US, today's moms are connected … a lot! They have become the most prolific users of mobile devices. According to a new eMarketer report, "The Mobile-Social Mom: Speeding the Trend Toward Mobile First", moms are more prolific in all aspects of mobility access versus the general population averages in the US:

Beyond social media, Moms are leading the way in adoption of mobile internet search, mobile banking and mobile shopping. In short, when your day is short on time from managing kids and the family, smartphones become a required part of your lifestyle.

Moms are the most likely to own and use mobile smartphones

Again, it had not necessarily occurred to me, but US moms are leading the way in smartphone ownership. Makes sense when you think about the practicality of connecting on the go at work and home, where WiFi isn't always available. But, it was a surprise to me that in a recent Edison Research report, almost 2/3 of moms now own a smartphone, which is significantly more than the 44% ownership of the general US population:

As recently as 2009, Arbitron estimated that just 8% of US moms owned a smartphone. Smartphone ownership is a clear reflection of how mobility access has become a lifestyle for today's mother/family manager. Mothers in the US are one consumer segment that leads with "mobile first" for access to information, social networks, and shopping.

What Mom's preference for mobility means for marketers and retailers

One can objectively argue that women and moms are not that different from most of the general population. To some degree that might be true in terms of overall marketing messaging for general products. But, in many households, moms are in fact the "Chief Procurement Officer" (CPO) regarding food, household staples … and especially product choices involving the children. So, this trend toward "Mobile First" has some significant implications for marketers and retailers.

It is simply not enough to say that companies and retailers must add mobile marketing to the mix. Optimizing websites for viewing on smartphones and tablets has become a requirement. What is so compelling about mom's shift to mobility is the corresponding behavioral shift in where, when and how she both accesses information, as well as what she deems as important.

Moms are a leading trend for important behavioral shifts

Said another way, it's not just accessing sites and information on a smaller screen. The trend of mothers to use mobile devices first is signaling significant behavioral trends that have major implications for marketers and retailers.

Any time, Everywhere – It's worth stating the obvious. US moms are highly mobile. So, with a smartphone they don't have to wait to get to their computer and WiFi. More importantly, they are so used to having everything real time on their phone, many don't bother using a PC when they get home and have access to one.

Mobile "Multiple Snacking" – 46% of moms with mobile devices visited social networks multiple times per day. According to the Edison Research, that's up from just 32% in 2010. Smartphones make social networks a primary means of connecting, as well as source of information about products, offers, recommendations, etc. And, it's not just social media … it is multiple snacking and searching all kinds of sites throughout the day.

Smaller screens require optimization – On smartphone size screens, people type less. On tablets people flick more. It's not enough to just make a website accessible … there are key design principles that speed search, access and ease of use … and enable ease of purchase.

Mobility drives social media – Said another way, touchscreen mobile interfaces make accessing social media a snap, and a primary activity. Not only are moms going to mobile first, but social media is often the first priority. Marketers must have a mobile strategy that incorporates social media into the mix.

Mobility offers and payment – Thrifty moms are the ultimate coupon shoppers. Given a choice, would they rather spend time searching magazines and papers clipping offers, or simply collect them digitally so they can use them real time as they pay with their smartphone at checkout online, or in store!

At the end of the day, retail is about reaching and selling products to the end consumer. The business of retail and marketing is one of watching future trends in behavior, and then figuring out how to make it easy for consumers to access, find and purchase what they want/need. In the case of mobility first, mom's behavior is a critical indicator of what will come for all of us.

If you don't currently manage kids as a mom, go borrow some for a day and see how much you rely on your smartphone/tablet to keep your sanity … and find what you need to survive a day with munchkins that are all about having everything real time.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Rahul Patwardhan
    Really nice detailed insights into the mom's mobile behavior. I think if retailers and marketers go mom's way they are not just targeting them but the whole family. So it's really important if you look at the big picture.
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Chris Petersen
Chris H. Petersen, PhD, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions is a strategic consultant who specializes in retail, leadership, marketing, and measurement. He has built a legacy through working with Fortune 500 companies to achieve measurable results in improving their performance and partnerships. Chris is the founder of IMS Retail University, a series of strategic workshops focusing on the critical elements of competing profitably in the increasingly complex retail marketplace.
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