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10 Things You Don’t Know About How Customers Use Smartphones


Editor’s note: Today we have a guest post from John Carroll, Global Head, Customer Experience of Ipsos Loyalty that is a summation of some fantastic learning originally shared in a webinar about consumer usage of smartphones. It’s been a while since we’ve focused on mobile here on GreenBook Blog, mostly because I think if MR doesn’t get the shift to mobile yet I’m not sure what else to say to change that perception. However, if being a parent of five has taught me anything it’s that repetition and patience are keys to changing behavior. So, we’ll be weaving relevant content related to mobile technology usage into the editorial queue as warranted. This reminder that consumer behavior is changing even if our engagement strategy with them isn’t (or at least not as quickly as it should be) is a great place to start.


By John Carroll 

Ten years ago, those select people that carried a cell phone did so mostly for making and taking phone calls. How primitive we were. Now flash forward to the 2010s and it seems that almost everyone has a smartphone and they’re doing much, much more with it than calling home to see if there’s enough milk in the fridge. Wouldn’t you love to know what they are doing their smartphones? Of course, you would, because what you don’t know can hurt you.

So based on our research, here are ten things you need to know about how your customers are using their smartphones. The list has a few points that will prove invaluable to your future marketing efforts.

10. Consumers are using their smartphones to create lists – grocery lists, to-do lists, wish lists, bucket lists. Whatever list it is, they’re on their devices, building and sharing lists, taking photos and gathering information, and keenly working to make things happen.

9. Sometimes, they’re just passin’ the time. Maybe while waiting in line, or for an appointment, they’re using their smartphones to kill some time by looking through social networking sites, playing games, listening to music, view texts or emails, read product reviews or maybe to complain about why they’re stuck waiting.

8. They’re researching everything! Whether in a store, at an event, or a business meeting, they are pulling out their smartphones to find anything and everything possible about the products, places and people they encounter.

7. Location, location, location! Consumers are using their smartphones to let friends know where they are by checking in on various social networking sites – be it a concert, the office, a restaurant or the mall.

6. They’re using smartphones to get discounts, deals and coupons. The increasing popularity of mobile coupons is no coincidence!

5. They’re brand hunting! Consumers are using their smartphones to find you, where your product/service is available, the quickest/easiest way to get their hands on it, and what others are saying about it.

4. More and more consumers are making mobile payments on their smartphones. The technology is there and consumers are adapting.

3. More consumers are storing their loyalty and membership cards on their smartphones or using company apps to help them do so.

2. They’re doing even more research! But in this case, the consumers are using their smartphones to research products and brands – checking and sharing reviews and getting input from their peers on their thoughts and experiences.

1. Consumers are using their smartphones to talk about you! And they’re not holding back. Whether it is to their own social network, responding to your surveys, or contributing to a review site, consumers are giving loads and loads of feedback and commentary on the products and services they are shelling out the money for.

Want to know the full deal on our list of ten things consumers are using their smartphones for? Listen to our recorded webinar:

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8 responses to “10 Things You Don’t Know About How Customers Use Smartphones

    1. Seriously @Chris? Wow, so all those mobile feedback scores after business events, ratings surveys after visits to restaurants and hotels or airlines, and comments posted on various communities are all forged? I think not. Or, are you saying then that the population that is abandoning the desktop/laptop at the highest rate due to the work/life benefits of mobility reserve some special place in their hearts for participating in research ONLY within a PC context?

  1. Leonard the samples you talk about are all committed in some way to the study e.g. post event surveys, current user surveys, post-usage experience, etc. These are surveys with interested or involved parties, a small nano-moment in the claims being made for mobile surveys. The question is, what is the potential for obtaining samples from a population that is not engaged with the particular product or moment? For example, how would I be able to do a survey of credit cardholders, or recent buyers of smartphones, where my hope and intention is to get a representative sample. The answer is you will not get a reliable sample, because the response rate for those over 35 whose time is valuable will be negligible. I don’t even want to go into the time limitations of mobile – most studies suggest no more than 5 questions. The day I see data that shows the incidence of survey participation by age and income segments will be a hallelujah moment because the truth is there are a huge segment of the user population that will see uninvited mobile surveys as intrusive and will simply never participate. There are already reports out there that show huge levels of annoyance with push communications. Surely data on declining facebook usage by age and turning off of GPS tracking by older smartphone users is telling us something!
    The industry response will be building panels, which will be at least some step towards credibility. But if you look at the media message now its all about how this is the new, new breakthrough, not about, well wait a moment maybe we need to build opt-in panels. Once you get into panel building the same problems as are seen for online will emerge – huge disinterest and dropout rates in participation by people over 35 years, certainly those with high incomes.
    Leonard as a industry observer you need to think through these processes more objectively. At the moment, and other than for an engaged and committted audiences, as you point out, or skateboarders, or justin bieber fans, etc mobile surveys are not the answer for many market research applications.
    The problems with Online panels now are an indicator of the future problems for mobile – and answer your comment about PC context usage. The truth is the same for both PC and Mobile. Ask anyone in the industry how hard it is to get an online sample of over 40’s in any country in the world! Is this a statistic that everyone chooses to ignore? Seems so.

    1. Chris, I love your participation in the discussions here; you are right, we do need folks to ask the tough questions and you always come through on that score. Thank you.

      I don’t disagree with much of what you are seeing in the context of traditional research approaches; indeed, we have major challenges around sampling, response rates, data quality, etc… that techno-social shifts are only exacerbating. Where we differ is that I don’t think we can keep trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; it’s our approaches that have to change to adapt to new norms. My belief is that many of the issues you bring up can be dealt with by changing our processes and thinking.

      As you point out, as an industry observer I need to pay attention to these issues, and I would say that is correct and would go further and say as a consultant and business owner I need to help our industry re-think our processes and create new models to deliver value based upon the wider trends impacting our industry.

      With that in mind, it is my basic premise that the traditional models must evolve, perhaps even to the point that current norms of sampling, survey best practices, recruitment, analytical models, and our core value proposition as research professionals look radically different over the next few years. The mode must dictate the method, and mobile is just one (albeit very large) example of that truism. Rather than railing against the changes happening and bemoaning the limits it is forcing on us, we need to embrace them and explore how we can use them to do what we are ultimately asked to do by our clients: enable understanding that moves the needle of the business.

      Will there be bumps along the way? Certainly. Will the emerging models totally replace traditional models in the next 5 years? Probably not. Will the new models become the norm in this decade? Absolutely.Our task is to start preparing for and even actively creating that future, because if we don’t, others most certainly will (and are even as we speak).

  2. “Rather than railing against the changes happening and bemoaning the limits it is forcing on us, we need to embrace them and explore how we can use them to do what we are ultimately asked to do by our clients: enable understanding that moves the needle of the business”

    A good point Leonard and I guess the ultimate reality!!!

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