More than half of the moms responding to a study on parenting and mobile use said they first bought a smartphone as a result of having a child. Fifty-one percent admit that they are “addicted’ to their smartphone. And their favorite feature? The phone camera, of course.
Those are some of the findings of the “21st Century Mobile Mom Report” compiled and recently released by parenting portal BabyCenter.com. The report, built from a behavior study of more than 5,000 moms and a deep-dive study of a subset of 23 specific moms, found that overall adoption of smartphones among mothers has risen 64% in the last two years. At 59% ownership, moms are currently 18% more likely to own a phone that can download apps than the general population.
“Mom is sort of the accidental early mobile adopter,” says Tina Sharkey, chairman and global president of BabyCenter. “She’s leading the way. And as mobile platforms become more interesting, we’re seeing Mom’s adoption rise to the point where she’s almost 20% more likely to have a smartphone.
“And the things that she’s doing on her smartphone are not only having an efficiency effect—it’s become her ‘life remote’—but they’re actually making her feel better and bringing emotional benefits.”
Those effects are manifest in the extra time smartphone moms engage with their devices. According to the report, the average smartphone mom spends 6.1 hours a day engaged with her device. That not only more than doubles the average time spent daily on mobile by moms with a standard feature phone (2.5 hours) but it even exceeds the time those feature phone moms spend on the Internet over a PC (5.4 hours) or indeed any medium, including TV.
One reason for that extra time spent on their smartphone: 455 of moms polled say the devices ease their stress, and 27% say it clams them. And 78% simply admit that they “love” their smartphone.
Compared to the general smartphone user population, the report finds, moms over-index on many of the functions that go to make up her family role. For example, 33% used their phones to track or investigate health and fitness, and 90% say they use their phones to look up health information.
Meanwhile, 42% of mommy respondents say they used their smartphones for shopping in the last 30 days, compared to an average 39% of all users. Of those shopping via smartphones, 62% are doing so using downloaded apps, which make for a faster and richer mobile Web experience. And 46% say that the most convenient time for them to get information about a product is when they’re standing in the store aisle prepared to buy.
Moms also report using their smartphones for social networking at a much higher rate—72% in the previous month, compared to 52% for users at large. And a sizeable portion of that social sharing may revolve around product recommendations; 73% of the survey respondents say they talk to other moms when deciding what to buy.
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t affected by mobile ads. Some 46% of moms surveyed for the BabyCenter smartphone study say they have taken an action after seeing an ad displayed on their device. Of those, 52% say they did more research on a product or service later; 51% say they spoke to someone else about what they’d seen; 31% clicked through to a mobile Web site; and the same proportion later bought the product in a store.
As for what gets their attention in a mobile ad, 55% of the moms polled say they want to receive mobile coupons, while 34% want to learn in real time about deals being offered nearby and 29% say they like to scan bar codes and QR codes for further information on a topic.
Marketers hoping to reach moms via email should also note that 78% say they check email on their smartphones. Since the range of those devices includes not only Blackberry models, which traditionally handle email tasks well, but also iPhones and those built on Google’s Android platform, email marketers should be routinely checking to make sure their messages display properly on those other two platforms.
In the lifestage area, 53% of the moms polled said they bought a smartphone as a result of having a family. Childbirth changes the favorite status of smartphone apps, too: as they moved into motherhood, the respondents said, their most-used apps changed from their address books and text messaging to their smartphone still and video cameras.
In fact, the basic ability to personalize the device by downloading apps rose to the third favorite thing these moms like about their smartphones. More than half say they currently have ten or more apps on their phones- with about a quarter of those aimed at entertaining their children. Among its portfolio of mobile phone applications for moms, BabyCenter itself offers the free PhonyPhone app that lets kids play safely with their parents’ iPhone without actually being in danger of placing calls.
The BabyCenter report did not start out specifically to examine moms’ smartphone use but to take a look at mobile usage overall. “We know that all mobile is not created equal, and that the text/SMS space is very important to moms,” Sharkey says. “The key finding is that that behavior is only power-charged when moms move onto smartphones.
“The mobile marketing is just burgeoning and evolving. When we initially launched the study, it was mostly about [the Apple iPhone platform] iOS, but as it evolved we had to include Android phones. And while we started out looking at the mobile Web, we came around to studying both that and mobile apps. There’s the smartphone market, and the tablet market. And there’s the market that has not yet presented itself. Literally, if we gave this study today, it would be a different study.”
BabyCenter’s Web sites, now in 22 global markets, are all optimized for mobile display, and the Web site is an implementing partner of the Text4Baby project, which spreads childbirth and wellness information using SMS, and of which BabyCenter LLC owner Johnson & Johnson is a founding sponsor.
Besides the PhonyPhone app, BabyCenter also offers the My Pregnancy Today app that lets mothers envision their baby’s prenatal development, and the BabyCenter Birth Class for the iPad tablet. The portal also offers Booty Caller, a text alert service to let women trying to get pregnant know when they’re most likely to conceive.