Commentary: Blacks Go Mobile to Shop

A new study shows that, once again, African-Americans are latching onto a technological advancement quicker than their white counterparts. So why aren’t marketers paying attention?

Posted: 07/02/2012 05:01 PM EDT
African-Americans make mobile purchases.

African-Americans have been some of the earliest and most fervent adopters of many of the Internet’s most popular technologies. Blacks, for instance, latched onto microblogging site Twitter almost immediately and have now made pockets of it it all their own.

And when it comes to standard blog-keeping, according to a UC Berkeley study from last year, Blacks are one and a half to two times more likely than whites to blog. Today, there’s a new notch to add to the Black Technological Leadership belt.

According to new research from The Checkout, “an ongoing consumer shopping behavior study,” African-Americans are embracing mobile shopping technology at rates that outstrip white consumers:


The Checkout … reports that 18 percent of African-American consumers and 16 percent of Hispanic consumers regularly use their mobile devices for purchase transactions — rates that are significantly higher than the 10 percent of Caucasians who use mobile for online purchases.

Additionally, 21 percent of African American shoppers use mobile technology for product reviews or shopping lists (compared to 13 percent of Caucasians) and 20 percent of Hispanic shoppers routinely perform mobile price comparisons.

One of the most interesting things about the variety of ways in which Black people cleave onto technological advancements is that they’re doing so despite the so-called “digital divide.” More whites than Blacks have broadband Internet access in their homes, according to a July 2010 Pew Research Center poll. But Blacks have found a way to overcome that disparate access via their mobile phones: Forty-six percent of Blacks now use their phones to access the Internet, compared to just 33 percent of whites. The African-American community is catching up when it comes to Internet consumption, and it’s about time for companies to take notice.

To that end, last week, dozens of media firms and marketing agencies geared toward Black consumers teamed up for what’s being called the #InTheBlack campaign. Led in part by BET, the campaign is an effort to remind companies that Black customers are out there, ready and able to spend money on the companies’ goods and services, if only marketing departments would stop overlooking them.

“We are excited to partner with some of the nation’s most influential media and marketing groups to highlight the growing economic opportunity of the black marketplace,” BET CEO Debra Lee told the New York Times. “As a collective, we are better positioned to demonstrate the value of targeting the black consumer audience and partnering with leading brands to help them succeed.”

In other words, just because Blacks are shopping in a different way — via their phones instead of their home computers — doesn’t mean that they’re any less important than white consumers. Whether the shopper is Black or white, the money’s all green.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

 

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(Photo: Heidi van der Westhuizen/Getty Images)

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