In April 2013, aufeminin.com in partnership with eBay, revealed a study on the relationship between women and their mobiles. (1) How do they use their mobile phones? Where, when and how do they use them? What benefits do they obtain from them in their everyday lives? How do they perceive online shopping on their mobiles (m-commerce)? Here is the precise decoding of an online survey of 3,000 Internet users in seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Spain and Poland.
Women are technophiles and addicted to their mobiles
87% of European respondents are equipped with a smartphone (86% of French). Better yet, in Spain, 9% have more than two. « The French are more connected to mobile technology than the national average. The Internet penetration in France is 80%, » explains Olivier Ropars, Senior Director of Mobile Europe trade at eBay. « Today, 78% of the French population has a mobile phone and 35.1% have a smartphone – a rate that has almost tripled in three years! »(12.4% of the French population had a smartphone in 2010).
Even more striking, 19% of respondents consider the smartphone as a basic necessity like food and housing (18% of French respondents).
Although the tablet does not know the same penetration rate yet – 64% of respondents do not have one (66% of French) – its rapid growth draws attention. « Although it is still lower than the smartphone, tablet penetration is phenomenal. In 2010, 1.8% of the French population was equipped with a tablet, today 16.4% have one. The more people become Internet consumers, the higher the tablet penetration rate with 26% of Internet users equipped with a tablet,” says Olivier Ropars.
Demanding mobile users
Constantly seeking innovations, respondents are volatile and do not hesitate to renew their equipment regularly. Despite the high cost, 53% of the respondents change their smartphones at least once every 18 months (57% of French). « The techie and geeky image of the smartphone, usually associated with men, is evidently gone!” analyzes Dr. Jean-Charles Nayebi, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist specializing in new technologies.
Women and their smartphones: inseparable
The study reveals a surprising separation anxiety among women. Only 7% of European respondents (8% of the French) could spend a day without consulting their smartphone. Whether at a restaurant, in transportation, at work, on the beach or watching TV: their phone follows them everywhere. Nearly a third of respondents would prefer to lose their identity papers or their glasses rather than their phone.
Only their laptop, pet and children’s toy come before their smartphone. Indeed, 89% of respondents (91% of French) would rather lose their smartphone than these.
In 2009, the sociologist Robert Ebguy also compared the cell phone to a « regression object », in others words, a « security cuddly toy », in his book « La France en culottes courtes ». “At first, it was a functional tool to make and receive calls. However, it rapidly turned into a « transitional object, » a concept coined by the psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott to describe an object that creates a bond between a child and his mother, the self and the outside world –a cuddly toy, a favorite blanket or handkerchief with the motherly scent. Three-quarters of the time, its use is purely emotional and sentimental: « Where are you? What are you doing?” Two small phrases whose aim is to reassure us about the existence of the other in his or her absence. Like the rollers, the laptop is used to repudiate the separation and remain permanently connected, like a young child with his mother. » (2)
The women interviewed also reported loving their cell phones because it allows them to save time for 69% of respondents (72% of the French), to stay informed for 84% (84% of the French), but above all, be in contact with the people who matter to them for 91% (93% of French).
From pleasure to addiction
Despite all that it can provide, the smartphone is not perfect. Indeed, 51% of respondents consider that it is also a time consuming tool (46% French), a third of respondents even believe that it is also a source of stress (30% of the French). Another downside is that the smartphone is said to prevent 36% of women to balance their private and professional lives (23% of French). The relationship between women with their mobile is complex. Moreover, « 35% of the French recognize the duality of their smartphone, » said Olivier Ropars, « they want to do without, but cannot. »
Dr. Nayebi shares this analysis: « The use of smartphones is happening between pleasure and anxiety. There is the satisfaction and pleasure with the commodities and the time saved with online reservations and online shopping. On the other hand, the object becomes invasive and indispensable; the boundary between the professional, intimate and social spheres diminishes and sometimes disappears. »
The flip side of the smartphone is not new. At the start of the mobile phone, the public was worried about the movement of boundaries. In 2006, the Australian sociologist, Gerard Goggin wrote: « The laptop was regarded as the symbol, if not the cause, of a disruption of the boundaries between work and leisure, between the public and private sectors. For some, it was a great tool to ease the situation. For others, it was indicative of an increase in the burden of work and its invasion into the home « (3)
The smartphone, sometimes too intrusive?
Although smartphones help maintain relationships with people around them, they are also surprisingly present in social situations. In fact, 97% of respondents say they use it at the restaurant or café; three quarters of them take it during a dinner with friends and half on a one-on-one date. Furthermore 47% of respondents (48% of French) look at their phones while driving and 17% (16% of French) while making love.
It is during professional meetings that the interviewed women are more restrictive. 65% of them prohibit consulting it in this type of context.
Smartphone vs. tablet: conversations versus leisure
The comparison between the digital practices of smartphones or tablets shows an absence of cannibalization. These devices are reserved for relatively distinct purposes. On one hand, the smartphone appears to be a more conversational tool (either via phone, email or social networks), on the other, the tablet is primarily recreational. Women prefer mainly using this device at home to watch movies or series (58%), to read (57%), or to shop online (58%).
The explanation lies in the comfort of the larger screen. « The tablet has a closer behavior to the PC because it rarely leaves the house and allows browsing activity on the Internet for entertainment and optimized relaxation » said Olivier Ropars. « The smartphone remains a personal object with a more intimate value. »
In terms of devices, English women are the big winners. Only 5% of respondents do not have a mobile, while the European average of the survey is 13%. This device rate reflects more mature digital practices: a third of British respondents online shop on their mobile, against 11% on average.
At the other end of the scale are the Polish women who are less connected. 34% of them do not have these devices. However, they are more likely to consider the mobile device as a staple. This difference is perhaps due to the frustration associated with a lower purchasing power or lack of perspective on an ambivalent object, as useful as it is constraining.
The Germans appear to be less dependent. 25% of them say they can live without their phone more than a day, compared to 12% on average. The Belgians, meanwhile, win the prize for addiction with 72% of women admitting to some dependence on their mobile, versus 53% on average. The French are not far behind with 67% of them admitting to some degree of addiction. The Spanish follow them. In fact, one Spanish out of five affirms she cannot be separated from her phone more than five minutes.
One last figure that characterizes our Italian neighbors and that gives in to their stereotype of risky transalpine drivers: 64% of them consult their smartphones while driving, compared to 47% of Europeans.
It goes without saying that online shopping has definitely entered into the daily lives of consumers. There are nearly 32 million online shoppers in France (figure from the Observatory of Internet Use by Médiamétrie – October-November 2012). But what about the mobile?
37% of respondents (29% of French) order online at least once a month via their smartphone or tablet. A CSA poll / Fevad (Federation of e-commerce and distance selling) published in January 2013, predicts that this year, 20% of consumers will shop via their smartphone (27% among 18-24 year olds) and 15% from their tablet.
« The boundaries between e-commerce, m-commerce (mobile), t-commerce (on tablet) and traditional trade no longer exist. Trade is now cross-channel. The mobile will become inevitable in 2015, it is estimated that more Americans use mobile than PC to connect to the Internet. The rise of the mobile is found immediately in m-commerce: in 2010, the global market for m-commerce represents $ 3.4 billion in the United States. In 2015, only five years later, the forecasts are phenomenal: 119 billion”, says Olivier Ropars.
« Shopping » expectations of mobile users
The reasons why women make purchases on their smartphones are the following: the comfort of being delivered at home (23% overall, 27% of French), the ability to compare prices and products (22% overall, 25% of French), and promotions (21% overall, 25% of French). « This last statistic is quite interesting when you know that we are entering the era of the ‘click & collect’ and the ability to receive notifications of promotions customized just by passing in front of business partners, » explains Olivier Ropars.
Nomads and demanding, women only want to become loyal. Thus, two thirds of them prioritize the sites or applications of their favorite brands and retailers for online shopping.
The key figures to remember
19% of women interviewed consider their smartphone as a basic necessity
53% of the women surveyed change smartphone at least every 18 months
Only 7% of respondents could spend a day without consulting their smartphone
37% of European respondents shop at least once via their mobile
(1) The new currency Ebay is « Think Mobile First », The aufeminin.com / eBay « smartphones, all crazy about her investigation? « Was conducted in March 2013 among 2,964 Internet users across seven European countries. 583 participants were French.
(2) Interview July 2009
(3) G. Goggin, Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life, Routledge, 2006.