If you want to create a successful soap opera, your best bet is to make the young and the rich the subjects of your storyline, right? Well, the same hold true for mobile retailers selling big-ticket items: Your ideal customers skew young and wealthy.
In May, Mashable reported that mobile commerce sales in the United States — i.e. sales on phones and tablets — were supposed to pass the $100 billion mark in 2014.
Mobile buying habits are still very new to most people, though, with purchases on any kind of mobile platform only accounting for about 20% of retail spending (excluding food and travel). That number is projected to change drastically in the next few years — we could see 50% of retail sales on mobile before the decade’s end.
In the meantime, we were curious to get a snapshot of Americans who have made purchases on their mobile devices, particularly big purchases.
We sent out a survey at the end of August asking respondents the following question: “Have you ever purchased an item costing more than $200 on your phone?”
According to our own hypothesis, $200 was a good indication that the buyer was sufficiently comfortable with mobile commerce to buy, say, a leather jacket or an expensive car part. We figured if someone was willing to drop $200, they were unlikely to consider a purchase made on a phone or tablet a novelty.
We got 1,000 responses from around the US, then weighted the results by age, gender and region.
Here is what we found.
Most people have not purchased anything that expensive on mobile.
Only about 14% of all respondents reported having bought a $200-plus item on mobile. That isn’t surprising given mobile’s small share of retail spending. If we were to repeat this survey in August 2016, it’s very likely that “Yes” responses would be much higher than 14% — doubling that number would be a reasonable bet.
But let’s look at the demographics of the people who did respond “Yes” to our survey. What makes someone likely to buy a big-ticket item on mobile?
Wealth is the best determinant for whether a user will buy an expensive item on mobile – as long as the user is younger than 65.
We found that an annual income of at least $75,000 is an interesting differentiator among those who reported “Yes” or “No.” Across all age groups, those who earn at least $75,000 per year are more than twice as likely to have made a $200 mobile purchase.
If you factor out respondents older than 65, though, a “Yes” answer among wealthier respondents becomes nearly 3.5 times as likely.
What becomes really interesting is when we factor in those with incomes in the $50,000–74,999 range, which is still an above-average income level in the United States.
Including this group slashes the likelihood that the respondent has ever made a $200 mobile purchase from 35.7% “Yes” responses to 20% “Yes” responses.
Incomes of at least $75,000 are a sweet spot for mobile retailers with expensive items.
Age is the second most important factor: Sell to wealthy Millennials.
Still using our $75K split, we segmented for respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, which roughly corresponds to the Millennial generation. Not surprisingly, the wealthy subset of the generation that is Internet-native reported more $200 mobile purchases than anyone else.
In fact, more than half of wealthy Millennials who responded answered “Yes” to our survey. Those earning at least $75,000 per year were four times more likely to respond “Yes.”
This generational divide is huge. Wealthy Gen X respondents and young Boomers were only about 60% more likely to have made a $200 mobile purchase than their counterparts making less than $75,000 per year.
Admittedly, our sample size is small for wealthy Millennials. There just aren’t that many young, rich people, which is why that demographic makes such good soap opera fodder: Most people cannot relate to them.
But if you can sell to them, you have a huge leg up on other mobile retailers.
Gender is another important factor.
Finally, we segmented our demographic by gender, and “Yes” responses skewed heavily male. Only a quarter of wealth Millennial females reported making $200 mobile purchases while 69% of male respondents reported making such purchases.
Again, the sample size is too small to draw concrete conclusions, but further research should absolutely follow up on this possible trend.
In the meantime, if you have a company that is sketching out its mobile strategy for contemporary American consumers, we think we’ve got a helpful buyer persona sketched out for you based on our data.
Epic Presence conducted its survey, “Have you ever purchased an item costing more than $200 on your phone?” online using Google Consumer Surveys from August 25–29. We received responses from 1000 American adults, aged 18 and older. Our results are weighted by inferred gender, age and geography.
Michael Summers / Flickr