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HOME NRI JOURNAL Smartphones and Uncommunicative Families


Innovation magazine that generates hints for the future


Smartphones and Uncommunicative Families

Shingo Konomoto, President & CEO, Representative Director, Member of the Board
Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. (NRI)



Jun. 10, 2019

Smartphones have impacted our social life in various ways. According to the NRI Questionnaire Survey of 10,000 Consumers conducted between July and August 2018, over 90% of both men and women aged 11 to 50 owned smartphones. The daily time they spent browsing the internet apart from work was 230 minutes, 227 minutes, 145 minutes, and 111 minutes for those in their teens, 20s, 30s, and 40s respectively. This number has increased 2.5 times, 2.7 times, 2.4 times, and 2.2 times respectively for each age group since 2009, and thus it can be seen that the spread of smartphones greatly increased the time spent on the internet. As 230 minutes is about 4 hours, we can see that apart from the time spent at school or work and sleep, young people in their teens and 20s spend all their time on the internet.

Smartphones are changing family and consumption patterns

The most frequent answers to what they do on the internet are "watching free videos," "chatting with friends through social media," "using maps," and "view others’ social media posts." In particular, video viewing time has been growing in recent years. On the other hand, TV viewing time has continued to decline, mainly among younger consumers. According to this survey, the average TV viewing time on weekdays for teenagers declined by slightly less than 30%, from 140 minutes in 2009 to 104 minutes in 2018. Even among those aged 20 and above, TV viewership has been steadily declining, although not as drastically as teenagers.
Imagine a family consisting of people of various ages, ranging from teenagers to 40-50 year-olds, gathered in the living room. The TV may be running in the background, but all of them are looking at their respective smartphones, watching videos or chatting with friends; in other words, they are each busy in their own world. For instance, the concept of families sitting together and enjoying a cup of tea has disappeared, and there are many households where members have grown distant from each other and do not interact even when they are sitting in the same room.
People are spending more and more time in online community spaces and constantly exchanging information. As a result, many of them get deeply absorbed in things they are interested in, and before they know it, they end up buying some expensive and rare item that is not available in the store from the internet. In this way, preferential consumption is increasing.
According to the survey by NRI, people in their teens and 20s shop online about 40 to 50 times a year; in other words, something is purchased via the internet almost every week. Even for people in their 50s and 60s, this number exceeds 30. As online shopping becomes more common, information from mass media becomes less meaningful. In terms of information sources when purchasing goods and services, the proportion of people who give importance to advertisements in television, radio, newspapers, and magazines continues to decline every year, while that of those who give importance to online information, such as the opinions on review sites and blogs, is increasing.
However, in reality, the importance of gathering information from brick-and-mortar stores is also increasing. Although consumers may ultimately buy online, they are interested in visiting real stores for the purpose of gathering information. These stores, therefore, cannot be said to have become obsolete. Certainly, more and more people have started to purchase goods from shopping malls, large specialty stores, and general discount stores, while the footfall at department stores and electronics retailers is stable and not experiencing any major fluctuations. Brick-and-mortar stores are undoubtedly coming under pressure with the rise of online shopping, but they have a good chance of recovery depending on the level of customer service and experience provided as well as the lineup of distinctive products. Online business models have a short lifespan and can be easily imitated, while this is not so easy in the case of competitive brick-and-mortar stores. If brick-and-mortar stores advertise factors such as convenience and entertainment, which cannot be provided by online stores, they should be able to attract customers and increase shopping opportunities.

FY 2019-20 will also be a year of dizzying change. We would like to be able to accurately grasp consumer trends and be recognized as a strategic partner in terms of both consulting and IT services in order to support our customers' growth strategies.

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