Impact of Mobile Phone Usage on Marketing Efforts

by | Nov 7, 2013 | Marketing, Marketing Research

Smartphones seem ubiquitous today, with everyone, it seems, using devices that were considering the realm of science fiction just a few years ago. Businesses are trying to figure out what this game-changing technology means, from phone providers battling over market supremacy to software companies creating the next big apps to retailers trying to connect with customers in new ways.

The latter is where the new trends impact market research the most. How can these new tools help researchers better understand the needs and desires of consumers and clients? That’s a discussion already happening throughout the connected world.

According to a Pew Internet study released in mid-September:

  • 91 percent of U.S. adults have a cell phone
  • 56 percent have a smartphone
  • 35 percent (16 and older) own a tablet

Smartphone users are most likely to be under 50, with a college degree, live in an urban or suburban area (not rural) and make more than $50,000 a year.

Marketers are still trying to grasp how customers use these devices. Like charts? Here’s a bevy of them trying to show exactly how users interact with their devices.

The author looks not only at the growth of smartphones, but how people are using them overall — taking photos, and increasingly reading books — and how they’re using them when they shop. Searches occur most often in the late afternoon and evenings. Most often searched: things to do and news to read. Almost half of searches are “goal oriented,” in search of answers to help the user make a decision. And they’re local.

What does this mean for researchers? Large firms can track big data on exactly who does what when on their site — what people look for and buy, what their patterns are. But does that gauge satisfaction? And what if you don’t have Amazon’s billions to track comments, actions and sales? Some users balk at the surfeit of tracking online. But as one firm discovered, other users embrace it.

One firm, Placed, lets Web site developers learn where users were when they checked certain sites. That includes where they were geographically, but also where they were likely to go — if a person visited Sears.com, where they more or less likely to also visit JC Penny’s site?

The data tracking doesn’t have to be high-tech, either. Knowing the general smartphone user statistics can help market researchers who want to target similar users. Ask smartphone users to log on to a survey for upper-middle-class educated professions, for example, and you’ve likely got your demo nailed. Or think smaller — are your surveys designed to work with the smaller screens, and the shorter attention spans, of smartphone users?

And finally, this isn’t just a U.S. trend — it’s international. But smartphone users do differ from nation to nation. In Asia, for example, they might skip ever owning a desktop in favor of Internet-capable phones, and that skews the owner statistics compared to the U.S. (The discussion in the comment section of this post is especially interesting). Of course, that begs the question — will the international model eventually become the norm everywhere? Or will the U.S. continue to blaze it’s own trail?

Let us know what you think — how have smartphones changed your marketing and research approach? What are your predictions for how it will do so in the future?