The Average American Spends More Than Three Hours a Day on Their Phone — Here’s What That Means for Retailers

For the first time, Americans will spend more time on their smartphones than watching television — and that’s good news for retailers.

According to market research agency eMarketer, adults in the United States are currently spending 3.4 hours per day on their mobile devices. That figure is expected to climb to three hours and 43 minutes this year, ahead of the three hours and 35 minutes spent watching TV.

The study comes as e-commerce continues to gain ground in overall retail sales. Instead of shopping the traditional retail format, consumers are increasingly using their phones to interact with brands, add items to their carts and make purchases.

Breaking down the activities performed by smartphone users, eMarketer found that people consistently spend the bulk of their time using apps over web browsers, with two hours and 57 minutes on the former versus just 26 minutes on a search engine.

A number of retailers including Macy’s and Target have been beefing up their omnichannel strategies by investing more heavily in their mobile apps, allowing for easier checkouts and targeted rewards.

For instance, Walmart — which has made bigger investments in the user interface of its app — has become the most adopted retail mobile app, residing on more than 58 million Americans’ smartphones, as reported in a new study from consulting firm Cornerstone Advisors. Amazon ranked a close second, downloaded on upwards of 54 million customers’ phones.

However, eMarketer’s study sees smartphone activity stagnating in the next year. “Consumers’ use of smartphones will continue to make up the majority of their media consumption,” the company wrote, “but we predict that use will plateau by 2020, as consumers become increasingly uneasy about overuse of mobile devices.”

Nevertheless, the results could prove useful for many retailers looking to reap the benefits of the burgeoning mobile commerce business. According to the agency, the channel now accounts for more than half of e-commerce sales, with that share potentially rising to nearly 73% by 2021.

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