How Smartphones Have Changed Consumer Habits and What Businesses Can Do to Respond

Consumers’ lives are changing as a result of smartphones, and BC small business aren’t immune to the effects of this trend.

Along with the Vancouver-based mobile agency iamota, Insights West recently released the Smartphone Insights Report, a comprehensive research project investigating the growing role that smartphones are playing in the lives of British Columbians – and the findings are shocking.

A solid 64% of adult British Columbians now own a smartphone, with the figure jumping to 86% among younger adults aged 18-34 – double what the proportions were just two years ago. And the remaining holdouts are dwindling quickly: of those who don’t yet own a smartphone, 22% are planning to get one in the next 12 months.

When we examined what people are doing with their smartphones, it was clear that the sheer range of activities and the way this device ties together numerous functionalities is the key to its popularity.

Its most popular functions go far beyond the primary communications of calling, texting, or emailing, which over 50% of the population does multiple times per day. Search, taking pictures, checking the weather, accessing social media, accessing online news and playing games round out the top 10 activities.

Small business owners should note that about half of smartphone owners are using their device to research products or services (50%) or locate a nearby store or service (45%) at least once a week. Mobile commerce has gone from the low single digits two years ago to half of smartphone owners today, as people pay for things like parking, movie tickets, or coffee via their smartphones.

Smartphone owners’ attitudes underline what their usage stats hint at: there is a growing reliance by consumers on this all-important device that some would even go so far as to call an addiction. Just over three quarters (76%) of smartphone owners we interviewed said they would return home to get their smartphone if they had forgotten it. Almost half (43%) consider their smartphone to be “very important to their life” and a further 18% said they would describe themselves as being “addicted” to their smartphone – though most feel their addiction is “strong, yet manageable.”

Entrepreneurs in BC need to be aware that consumers’ lives are changing as a result of smartphones, and they expect the businesses they patronize to respond accordingly. About 8 in 10 smartphone owners (79%) said they “expect a positive mobile experience from the brands they trust.”

The changes spurred by smartphones can be a daunting prospect for smaller enterprises, since compared to big companies, they may not have the same kind of resources to beef up their mobile experience for consumers. However the potential upside is that – just like with conventional online presence – a strong mobile brand presence can actually help to level the playing field.

For a free copy of our Smartphone Insights Report, released this summer with iamota, visit