One in six smartphone owners use them for purchasing

The average person uses some form of 'connected device' 34 times a day, with over half of smartphone owners turning to their phone rather than facing 'down-time.'

One in six smartphone owners use it at some stage when buying goods while people in general use some form of internet-connected device 34 times a day, according to a new IAB report which reveals how wedded British consumers are to ‘connected’ technology.

The findings are based on studies carried out by independent research agency Firefish, involving over 1,350 interviews amongst smartphone owners and 700 hours of video footage from people wearing FishEye™ cameras.¹

Connection addiction

The FishEye™ cameras – which took a picture every five seconds over a three day period – reveal that people pick up/use a connected device² such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet, 34 times each day. 

The respondents averaged a total of two hours 12 minutes per day using a connected device, while for 46% of this time – one hour and one minutes – they’re using at least two devices, sometimes three, simultaneously.

Tim Elkington, Director of Research & Strategy at the Internet Advertising Bureau, said: “One thing that stood out in the study was how surprised respondents were when told how frequently they’d looked at their phone, tablet or computer. It reinforces how normal ‘omni-screening’ – being just an arms-length away from some device that gets us online – has become. 

“We also saw a broad pattern in how people use their devices; the morning is about getting information such as weather and travel, the afternoon for undertaking specific tasks such as banking or paying bills, while the evening is focused on entertainment, including shopping.”

Technology dependence

The research reveals how reliant people have become on technology and the inroads it makes into daily life. Over half (56%) of UK smartphone owners report using their smartphone for day-to-day tasks – rising to 70% among 18-30 year olds. Over one-third (34%) say their smartphone is a “lifesaver” – again rising to over half (52%) of 18-30 year olds. 

Over half (52%) say they prefer to check their smartphone if they have any “downtime” rather than just sit and think. Among 18-30 year olds, the figure rises to over six in 10 (62%).

Over one third (37%) say they even check their smartphone if there’s a lull in conversation with friends. Over four in ten (44%) say their smartphone makes their commute more enjoyable.

“People’s inability to leave their phones alone is the newest addition to common ‘displacement’ behaviours such as smoking, doodling, fiddling with objects and picking at food. It’s also an extension of ‘nomophobia’ – the fear of being without your mobile” says Dr Simon Hampton, Psychology lecturer at the University of East Anglia. 

“Rather than do nothing we’re compelled to turn to them for reassuring comfort. What’s exciting for marketers is that, unlike most of the examples above, this mildly compulsive behaviour might be exploited to encourage purchasing, particularly as digital increasingly blurs the line between shopping and entertainment.”

Shopping boost

The research shows the impact that connected devices have on the way people shop and the way they view shopping. One in six (17%) UK smartphone owners say their phone had played some role – either browsing, researching or buying – in a purchase made in the last fortnight.

In terms of how people shop today, two-thirds say they initially research the product online, then look at it in a high-street shop before buying online – people over 55 years old (70%) are the most likely to do this.

Connected devices have also turned shopping into more of a pastime – four in ten people (41%) say they often shop online when they’re bored, rising to almost six in 10 (58%) of 18-30s.

Elkington concludes: “There’s no doubt that connected devices have changed the shopping process but even how people regard it. Shopping, particularly browsing for aspirational products such as holidays or higher-value items, has become part of the evening’s leisure time for Britons.

“As people are becoming more adept at using these devices, they’re hopping between them – a more parallel use than the sequential method we’ve seen in recent years. However, smartphones are increasingly the entry point into the digital world so advertisers should consider it as the ‘first date’ – enticing people to find out more at a convenient time without coming on too strong in terms of information or call-to-action.”

Dr Bob Cook, Director of Innovation and Inspiration at Firefish, said:

"Using FishEye™ gave us a more complete and realistic version of how people really interact with the digital world and illustrated how constant their connection to the internet now is. This represents an enormous opportunity to marketers as their access to people continues to increase rapidly in terms of both its quantity and quality. Alongside this, the detailed narrative of people’s lives that we captured showed how purchase behaviour evolves as a result of complex interactions between the individual and a combination of both on and off line stimuli. The boundaries between the two worlds are now increasingly blurred and effective campaigns in the future will be based on a collaborative strategies that harness the combined strengths of different channels rather than attempt to choose between them.”