The Next Big Marketing Frontier: Smartphone Moms

Smartphone-wielding moms are where the action is — a fact not lost on marketers, more and more of whom are targeting this particular segment. And chances are a fair number of these moms prefer an Apple iPhone or a Google Android device. Such trends, along with increasing sales of smartphones, should significantly reshape marketers’ strategies, says Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn.

Apple’s share of total mobile phone sales grew 117% between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research services firm in Port Washington, N.Y. But Apple’s share among moms (defined as adult women with children under 18 in the household) grew 132% during the same time period, as reported by NPD’s ongoing Mobile Phone Track consumer tracking service. By comparison, Apple’s share among adult women without children under 18 in the household grew 103%; among adult men, it grew 121%, says NPD spokesperson Lee Graham.

The next big challenge for marketers is to develop appropriate apps that appeal to moms armed with smartphones, says Kahn. Not only are these women adapting quickly to the smartphone and apps technology, but they have “considerable time” during their day to spend “with the various apps and smartphone products,” she adds.

Mobile Commerce a Big Draw

These new trends are particularly interesting to marketers because of the increasing ubiquity of mobile commerce. “Moms, who already [are responsible for] many of the household purchase decisions, now have a new technology to help them make these decisions more effectively and efficiently,” Kahn says. Not surprisingly, many of the iPhone’s 425,000-plus apps that appeal to mobile commerce-friendly mothers cover a wide range of topics. Those include apps for stocks and options price tracking and trading, personal finance and budgeting.

“We have known about the opportunity of online moms for a while now, but then mobile technology came along and blew everything up,” NPD Group’s chief retail analyst Marshal Cohen told the Washington Post. And, notes Facebook’s Ethan Beard in an interview Knowledge@Wharton published this week, new people are coming online all the time, especially in developing countries where mobile phones are how more and more people access the Internet. Also, as mobile technology gets better and bandwidths get wider, it becomes easier for retailers to target consumers, according to another Knowledge@Wharton report on e-commerce.

The iPhone Gathers Speed

In targeting moms, many of those mobile apps developers would likely choose the iPhone platform first. Research services firm Nielsen, which coined the “power moms” phrase a few years ago, said in a May survey that while Android leads the smartphone market, it has of late been losing ground to the iPhone. Android’s share in new smartphones has stayed mostly flat at 27% in the first five months of this year. But Apple’s share has grown from 11% to 17% in the same period, eating into sales of the BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices, Nielsen noted.

Overall, smartphone sales are set to cross the one billion mark by 2016, according to a recent report by IMS Research USA of Austin, Texas. Worldwide, smartphone shipments grew 76% to 110 million units in the latest quarter ending June, reports Bloomberg News, quoting Strategy Analytics of Newton, Mass. Apple led smartphone sales last quarter with iPhone sales of 20.3 million, followed by Samsung and Nokia, the report adds.

Apple’s iPhone has endeared itself to moms in more ways than one might expect. The mother of all apps turned out to be a menstrual calendar that 30-year-old Lena Bryce of Glasgow, U.K., used last year on her iPhone, according to a report in U.K.’s The Sun newspaper. The app tells when a woman is most fertile. Within two months of using it, Bryce was pregnant. When her daughter Lola was born, she was nicknamed Britain’s first iPhone baby.

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