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The Demographic Realities Driving Mobile Commerce

Woman shopping mobile customerMobile Commerce Daily outlines the key findings of a new GfK report, which states,

“In the past year, Internet shopping via a PC or laptop dropped from 78 percent to 63 percent, while the use of smartphones doubled from 8 percent to 15 percent and tablets from 5 percent to 10 percent…”

Cool, right?

Well, yes. But… as my journalist friends say, Mobile Commerce Daily “buried the lede.”

Check out the demographic breakdown:

“The use of smartphones and tablets for online shopping varies by generation.

In the past six months, 21 percent of Generation Z used a smartphone to shop, up 8 percentage points compared with a year ago. In comparison, smartphone shopping was reported by 25 percent of Generation Y, up 11 percentage points; by 15 percent of Generation X, up 7 percentage points, and by 7 percent of Baby Boomers, up 4 percentage points.”

So, somewhere between one-fourth and one-fifth of all Millennials, are using smartphones—not tablets—to shop. And browse. And buy. And the amount of shopping traffic from mobile can only increase as:

  1. “Gen Z” (either the youngest Millennials or the oldest of the generation behind Millennials, depending on who you ask) starts to influence more purchases, and to make more of their own.
  2. “Gen Y” (i.e., “traditional” Millennials) matures into their prime earning years.
  3. Boomers age out of the marketplace, a trend likely to accelerate within the next decade.

These aren’t “projections” or “educated guesses.” These are demographic realities. Even if new medical technology extends the working—and prime earning—lives of Boomers far beyond their forebears (which would be terrific for lots of reasons), the younger cohorts are also entering the workforce and beginning to spend money at a much faster pace. Remember, the oldest Millennials are entering their 30’s, and more than half are now over 21.

And, they’ve grown up in a world where using your phone to browse and shop and buy is the norm, not the exception. To the youngest Millennials, a smartphone is no more “technology” than a light switch is to older cohorts; it’s just there, ready when you need it, always at hand. Millennials spend more time using digital to research, browse, shop, and buy than any other media, and that’s unlikely to shift dramatically as they age—and as their spending power increases.

Most importantly, this doesn’t spell “the end of retail,” or anything close to it. Your customers are social beings. They like hanging out with their friends, and they like using all 5 senses to experience the world around them. Do a bad job selling that experience and you’re toast. It’s not easy and even some folks you might not expect seem to be struggling with the transition to an “it’s all e-commerce” world. But handle this transition well, and, just maybe, the switch Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers flip will be yours.

If you’re interested in learning even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Plus, don’t miss these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

Finally, you might also want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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