March 6, 2014, 9:34 AM

Consumers spend 3.3 hours per day on their smartphones

It should come as no surprise, then, that 85% of smartphone owners say mobile is a central part of daily life—with 90% of the 18- to 24-year-old set in agreement, an ExactTarget survey says. And retailers be advised: On mobile, content is king, the survey finds.

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Smartphones are right up there with wallets and keys as items consumers cannot leave home without. But unlike their all-important counterparts, smartphones hardly remain relegated to a pocket, purse or drawer throughout the day. On average, consumers spend 3.3 hours each day using their smartphones, according to new data from digital marketing firm ExactTarget. Shoppers know it, too—85% of smartphone owners say mobile is a central part of their day-to-day life, with 90% of those ages 18 to 24 in agreement.

ExactTarget tracked the mobile activity of 470 smartphone owners, 205 of whom also own tablets, from Dec. 15, 2013, to Jan. 15, 2014. The firm also followed up with those consumers in an online survey from Jan. 6-14, matching their responses to their behaviors in the course of the month, the firm says.

One of the biggest reasons consumers spend so much time with their smartphones is to virtually interact with their friends. 75% of smartphone owners say they check a social network at least once a day from their device, while 64% of tablet owners do so from a tablet, the study reveals.

They also interact with brands. More than half of the survey respondents—53%—say they have Liked or followed a brand on social media from a mobile device, a greater percentage than those who have scanned a coupon or QR code (43%), the survey says. Among the 53%, the top reason they follow a brand on social media from a mobile device is to access special deals and offers, say 63%.

Of the 10 most-visited brands and organizations on mobile devices among the respondents, five are social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube) while two are retailers ( Inc. and Groupon Inc.). The rest are news and weather sites. Additionally, consumers visit eight in 10 of those sites more often via a mobile app than a mobile web site, ExactTarget says. The exceptions are Twitter, which draws 74% of its mobile traffic from the mobile web, and Amazon, with 66%.

Despite their enthusiasm for mobile browsing, consumers aren’t completely sold on the value of mobile-optimized web sites. 54% of survey respondents say mobile sites don’t provide enough information. However, 54% also say sites optimized for smaller screens are easier to navigate than sites designed for computers, and 67% say mobile sites run faster than desktop sites accessed on a smartphone or tablet. That runs counter to a recent study by Retail Systems Research LLC that found most consumers prefer desktop to mobile sites when on a smartphone. Read more about those confounding responses to mobile-optimized sites—and what retailers can do about it—in this magazine story from Internet Retailer’s March issue.

The ExactTarget survey also provides a view of what mobile device users want. 91% of survey respondents say they want content to be accessible on any device, making that their top concern in rating a brand on mobile, ExactTarget says. And of the respondents who share their locations via their smartphones or tablets, 76% say they do so in order to receive more relevant content on their devices.

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