Research shows men are more likely to shop on mobile than women

Men's clothing for sale is displayed on a mannequin at a Banana Republic LLC store in Los Angeles, California in this 2013 file photo. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)
(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/File)

Ever wonder what men are doing on their smartphones when you see them sitting waiting miserably in shopping malls? It could be shopping.

It turns out that men shop online just as much as women do, and they are more likely to make purchases through their mobile devices compared to women, according to a recent BI Intelligence report. 

While women are typically the top targets for marketers, men drive nearly as much e-commerce spending in the United States. Women control about 80 percent to 85 percent of household spending, but they account for a much lower proportion of online spending. The BI Intelligence report analyzed data and studies conducted by organizations including comScore, SeeWhy, Extrabux and Greenfiled, and found consistent results indicating men’s preference in mobile and online shopping, said Marcelo Ballvé, editorial director of BI Intelligence.

Although 57 percent of U.S. women and 52 percent of men made a purchase online in 2013, men tend to make more purchases on their smartphones and tablets than women, as shown in the graph below. According to a study conducted by SeeWhy, 22 percent of men bought something on their phones while 18 percent of women did; 20 percent of men made purchases on their tablets, compared with only 17 percent of women.

The SeeWhy research also shows men are less tolerant of negative experiences in the mobile shopping process. Slow Internet connections, small screens and navigation issues may cause men to give up far faster than women, who are much more likely to abandon a purchase due to indecision rather than frustration with the device.

“Women indicated they weren’t ready to buy two times more than male respondents, with 62.5 percent of females, versus 24.7 percent of males, revealing a desire to browse more before buying via their tablets,” the SeeWhy report says. “We can consider this classic shopping behavior, where the shopping process is considered by many women to be recreational, ‘retail therapy.’”

The SeeWhy study also indicated that women looked for sales and promotions 43 percent more than male respondents, which suggests women has a recreational, but financially savvy approach to shopping using mobile devices.

Ishani Banerji, research director for the Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research, told The Washington Post that her team recently ran an online survey asking consumers questions about their last online purchase. More than 950 people responded, among which 55 percent were women. Although the online poll shows 17 percent of women used a mobile device, compared with 15 percent of men, men and women were similarly likely to use a mobile device to make their purchases. Men reported spending more than women when making a purchase with their mobile devices, and being somewhat more satisfied with their purchase than women.

In addition, the BI Intelligence report shows men are also more likely to shop on online auction sites. Forty-three percent of men ages 18 to 34 said they typically shop on sites like eBay, compared with only 31 percent of women of the same age.

The trend is consistent among American teens. Data pointed out a higher adoption of e-commerce by teen boys compared with teen girls. About 86 percent of teen boys and 76 percent of teen girls reported they shop online. Among teens, a higher percentage of males said they shop at general sites such as Amazon and eBay than females, who prefer to shop on fashion and specialized e-commerce sites. Clothing and food are the largest categories by far that account for 21 percent of total teen spending.

The BI Intelligence report also noted that online shoppers tend to have a higher education level, citing data that 78 percent of U.S. adults who shop online have at lease some college education, and 46 percent have college degrees. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28.5 percent of the U.S. adult population has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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