Demographics Role in the Future of Mobile Communities

Filed Under: Tools & Techniques, Media, Technology, Communities & Panels, Online Communities, Qualitative Research


Bob Relihan

The holiday season has become a benchmark for the forward progress of online and mobile shopping activity. Pew has reported that 58% of cellphone owners used their phones in a store to get information to guide their shopping.

  • 46% of cellphone owners used their phones to call a friend or family member for advice.
  • 28% of cellphone owners used their phones to look up product reviews.
  • 27% of cellphone owners used their phones to look up the price of a product.

Of course, younger smartphone owners were much more likely to engage in these behaviors.

These are remarkable numbers, but what has more an interesting implication for those interested in the future of mobile research and online communities are the demographics that did not make the headlines. To be sure, men and women check reviews and prices with their phones at roughly similar rates. But, to seek advice…. Hardly!

Is this another example of men not asking for directions? Partially, I suppose. But it is a bit more complex than that. If you listen to phone conversations in stores (I confess to being a compulsive eavesdropper), you will hear two very different exchanges. Painting with a very broad brush, women seen to call from the grocery store and ask family members what they want. “Do you want Rocky Road or Chocolate Mint Chip?” “What would you like for lunch?” Men, on the other hand, tend to ask about the “List.” “I can’t find Dole; is it OK to get Del Monte?” “You said steak, but what kind?”

In other words, women seem to check with home because they want to get it right; they want to make sure everyone is happy. Men seem to check because they don’t want to get it wrong. Or, they don’t worry and don’t call.

So, from the perspective of research, this is mixed news. Mobile data collection seems to be the way to go. People are “transmitting data” already. The same can’t be said for taking surveys; they exist almost exclusively in the context of research. But, if we want to integrate that mobile activity into an online community, many women may be there already. Men, on the other hand, may not be.

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