From Procter & Gamble to AT&T and Pandora, firms are taking notice that mothers, newly armed with smartphones, are becoming a new kind of shopping force online. A decade ago, these women were single and childless 18- to 34-year-olds who captured the hearts of Madison Avenue marketing executives with their voracious consumer appetites. Now, they are older and often in charge of the household wallet.
Moms are the fastest-growing buyers of iPhones, and they are tuning in more frequently and for longer periods than any other group on media Web sites such as Pandora, a streaming music service. Nielsen Research says mothers are far more likely to share photos and news stories on Facebook via smartphones and computers than anyone else.
“We’ve known about the opportunity of online moms for a while now, but then mobile technology came along and blew everything up,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at research firm NPD Group.
Between business meetings, in carpool lines and at sports practices, moms are spending downtime on smartphones to update the family calendar, buy soccer cleats, research cheap flights and fit in a few rounds of Angry Birds.
Nielsen calls these women “power moms.” They represent one in five online users — a proportion that is growing quickly — and some research shows they are an even greater force on mobile devices.
The number of moms with smartphones is about equal to men of the same age, but they are adopting the technology at a faster pace. The number of moms who purchased iPhones grew 132 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same time last year — outpacing men, who rose by 121 percent, according to NPD. Overall, adult purchases of the smartphone grew 117 percent.
Women with children are also among the biggest spenders on the Web — either buying directly from mobile apps or researching products that they buy later.
“Early adopters are no longer young people and men,” said Candace Corlett, president of marketing consulting group WSL Strategic Retail in New York. “What the smartphone does is allow women who are hungry for information to get what they want from the Internet instead of calling up a sister or friend for advice.”
Take Denise Stoner, 48, who on a recent morning pulled out her hot-pink-encased iPhone at least a dozen times within a couple hours. The Vienna resident sent texts to her husband about plans for the day, listened to the Jimmy Buffett channel on Pandora on the way to Tysons Corner and made a few moves on a multiplayer Scrabble app against her sister, who lives in Florida.
As Stoner waited for her 11th-grade daughter to finish her hair appointment, she fired up Netflix. But before she watched her streaming video, she updated friends on Facebook about an annoying run-in with a security guard who gave her a hard time about putting her manicured bare feet up on a mall couch.
“It was just annoying enough to share,” she said.