Cell Phones: A Consumer's Best Friend

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http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1638

This Pew Research poll surveyed 1,000 Americans on how they used their cell phones while shopping for the 2011 holiday season. According to it, 52% of Americans used their cell phones in some way to help make purchasing decisions while in a store.

38% of respondents phoned a friend for purchase advice, while 24% looked up product reviews and 25% checked for better prices in other stores. 33% of respondents did both of the latter two actions.

The data reflects the digital divide in that young and urban/suburbanites were much more likely to use their cell phones while shopping than their older and rural counterparts.

What I don't understand is, why did Pew need to run a survey to determine this information? With all this talk of digital/text analytics, and cookies tracking our every (albeit electronic) move, couldn't they just have used one of the analytics tools we've learned about in class to gather this information? Perhaps they would not be able to determine if shoppers actually called their friends for advice, but they certainly could have determined whether they checked product reviews and other prices. Our phones record our geographical location at all times, so they could determine if they were in a store or not. Of course, the practice of digital analytics is still in its infancy, so maybe we'll just have to wait a few decades for such detailed research.

One last thing I must add is about the effects of cell phones on consumers and the strategic communicators who try to influence them. This poll sheds much light on the growing prevalence of mobile in consumers' everyday lives, and I believe that we, as strategic communicators, need to be aware of this. Mobile is the future now. No longer will a "cool" or "hip" Super Bowl ad result in a direct purchase. Consumers now have the ability to bargain, and its right in the palm of their hands. What we must remember is that the tool they use to bargain with (their cell phone) is just another channel of communication. It is a channel which, like all channels, we can manipulate to our benefit. We just need to figure out how.

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