December 22, 2009

Consumer Behavior in the Mobile Channel: 4 Trends Marketers Should Note

SUMMARY: Consumer use of advanced mobile technologies is on the rise, and marketers need to understand this behavior to develop their mobile marketing strategies.

See the data that an analyst says are driving four key trends in the mobile sector. We highlight age-specific statistics on mobile social networking, smartphone usage, SMS adoption, and offer tips on what those numbers mean for your 2010 mobile marketing plans.
Joy Liuzzo, Senior Director, Marketing and Mobile Research, InsightExpress, sees a lot of mobile data. Her team is responsible for measuring mobile advertising, marketing, trends, and custom applications.

In 2009, this data revealed one important factor that Liuzzo says marketers should note: Every type of mobile interaction is on the rise, and consumers are always looking for new things to do with their new devices.

"That’s the genius of mobile technology right now," says Liuzzo. "We aren’t seeing anything that’s losing consumers’ interest."

Below, we highlight four key trends in consumer mobile usage, and what these trends might mean for your mobile marketing initiatives. (Unless otherwise specified, Luizzo’s team gathered the below data through 2009 surveys and panels). Take a look if you’re considering a mobile test, or are curious which mobile communications your audience might prefer.

Trend #1. Rise in smartphones

Advanced mobile technology that handles Web browsing, email and applications is becoming more available. Consumers are responding by increasing adoption. About 24% of all mobile users own a smartphone.

Here’s the smartphone ownership rate of mobile users by age group:
o 18 to 24 year-olds -- 29%
o 25 to 44 year-olds -- 29%
o 45 to 54 year-olds -- 24%
o 55 to 64 year-olds -- 13%

"It’s not just for 'geeks' anymore. It’s really running across the line," Liuzzo says. "Marketers should realize there’s a segment of the population that’s only going to get larger, that’s going to want to have access to anything and everything on their mobile device."

-> Tip: Prepare your website

Mobile apps have recently received a lot of press. However, for many marketers, preparing a mobile site is a higher priority.

The growth in smartphone use means more mobile users will use these devices to browse the Web. In order to keep up with this trend, your website should render cleanly on a mobile browser, or you should have a separate mobile site.

Keep in mind that mobile Web surfers are different than computer Web surfers. They are often out-of-home and looking for quick, useful information. Consider the information your customers would want under these circumstances, and make it easy to navigate on a handheld device.

Features might include:
o Store locator and store hours
o Product pricing and details
o Coupons/promotions
o Contact information
o Commonly used areas of your website

Trend #2. SMS is widely used

SMS adoption among younger mobile users is approaching a plateau, Liuzzo says. But older age groups are still showing strong increases.

Here is the percentage of mobile users who text by age group:
o 18 to 24 -- 83%
o 25 to 44 -- 65%
o 45 to 54 -- 52%
o 55 to 64 -- 33%

Furthermore, Liuzzo points to data showing that nearly all age groups sign up for SMS alerts. Weather alerts are currently the most popular, followed by sports and airline alerts.

Here are the alert-usage rates by age group:
o 18 to 24 -- 32%
o 25 to 44 -- 27%
o 45 to 54 -- 19%
o 55 to 64 -- 15%

Many text alerts are maintained by brands and companies. Therefore, the data show consumer willingness to interact with companies via SMS.

"Quite honestly, I think it’s something that brands and marketers need to acknowledge and to jump on and figure out how they can have a continued conversation," Liuzzo says.

-> Tip: Start experimenting and integrating

SMS popularity and consumer willingness to interact with brands via SMS indicates an opportunity for marketers. You can start by building a mobile subscriber list, promoting through email, in-store, social media and/or paid media.

Consumers often opt into SMS services by texting a certain keyword to a provider’s number. You can promote different keywords in different regions to help segment your subscribers.

Once you have a list, remember that SMS can have an immediate impact on foot traffic. Emailed promotions might generate in-store traffic in matter of days or hours. But a well-timed SMS promotion can drive traffic in a matter of minutes, allowing you to quickly respond to events.

Trend #3. Growth in mobile social networking

The ability to interact with friends and contacts through mobile social networking apps and Web sites is just now starting to blossom. Nine percent of mobile phone owners have used a social network on their phone.

Here are the most popular networks, followed by the percentage of social mobile users who said they’ve accessed them from their mobile devices:
o Facebook -- 58%
o MySpace -- 54%
o LinkedIn -- 7%
o Flickr -- 6%
o Twitter -- 5%

The team gathered the data in early 2009. They are currently updating the figures, and Liuzzo has noticed a few changes.

"That Twitter number has definitely increased," she says. "We’re expecting Twitter to come in as high as 19% to 20%."

Top five most commonly reported actions on mobile social networks, in descending order:
o Visit friend’s profile
o Post comment
o Post and update
o Browse profiles
o Update via text message

Mobile social networking "is something that’s increased," Liuzzo says, adding, "I think we’re going to see it increase over the next year or so, as well."

->Tip: Expect more sharing

Rather than focusing on mobile social networks as a separate marketing channel, marketers should consider it an extension of the social Web. Mobile social may grow in importance in the months to come, but it is not a current priority for most.

Continue to make promotions and other content sharable among consumers. Doing so helps get your most exciting promotions into these networks where they’ll spread to other types of users.

Also, if you have a brand presence on these networks, social mobile users will be able to find you there as easily as if they were on a home computer. The networks handle the formatting.

Trend #4. Stronger impressions on smartphones

Consumers are warming to the notion of mobile interaction. In fact, smartphone users who use an application, play a game, listen to music or watch videos enjoy the experience slightly more than PC users, according to Liuzzo’s team’s data.

However, the data also show feature-phone users enjoy these activities less than computer users. Feature-phones can have online access but are often lower powered and more difficult to navigate than smartphones.

Consumers’ positive view of smartphone computing might give mobile ad impressions a stronger impact than ads viewed on a computer.

The data below compare normative brand metrics compiled from more than 50 mobile advertising studies and more 800 online advertising studies Liuzzo’s team conducted. Mobile campaigns included display, SMS, video, interactive voice response and apps. Online campaigns included display and video:

- Unaided awareness:
o Mobile -- 10.7
o Online -- 2.0

- Aided awareness:
o Mobile -- 9.1
o Online -- 2.7

- Ad awareness:
o Mobile -- 16.5
o Online -- 4.9

- Brand favorability:
o Mobile -- 8.6
o Online -- 2.2

- Purchase intent:
o Mobile -- 10.5
o Online -- 2.7

-> Tip: Test mobile display advertising

Mobile display advertising should be tested by marketers who see value in buying regular online display ads. When comparing the branding impact of mobile display advertising, SMS and mobile video, display advertising has shown the most impact on unaided brand awareness and ad awareness. Display is second to SMS in aided brand awareness and purchase intent.

As smartphone adoption grows, mobile ads offer the potential for better impact from a more engaged audience. Reach out to your publishing partners and ask about mobile ads.

Also, some online display and search advertising networks, such as Google AdWords and Yahoo!, have mobile advertising operations. For marketers already using similar networks, test campaigns should be easy to setup and monitor.

Since mobile is an emerging channel, you may be able to fetch bargain rates for ads that perform strongly, even if on a smaller scale.

Useful links related to this article

How to Build a Mobile Ad Campaign: 4 Crucial Elements to Include + Mobile Ad Test

One-Two Campaign Punch Grows Email & Mobile Lists: Segmentation Delivers 40% Lift in CTR

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