Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mobile Consumer Behaviors - The Seven Essential Questions

Digital Transformation is the process of updating your business and IT infrastructure to align with today's and tomorrow's consumers.  Today that is important, but hard to do.  Mobile consumer behaviors are changing far faster than most IT budgets and initiatives and that can cause problems.  If your customers are adopting technologies and changing their path-to-purchase journeys at a pace that is faster than you can deliver, then you are opening up an opportunity gap for a more nimble competitor.

Do your internal sales and executive strategy sessions begin with these questions:
  1. Where are our customers to be found?  
  2. What technologies are our customers using?  
  3. How are our customers' path-to-purchase journeys' changing?  
  4. Are we meeting our customers along their path-to-purchase journeys and supporting them?
  5. Are we digitally transforming at a pace that will keep us aligned with our customers' pace of change?  
  6. Is our IT budget aligned with the required pace of change?  
  7. Are we re-engineering business processes to align with required digital transformations and mobile consumer behaviors?
According to comScore's quarterly State Of Retail report, in the first quarter of 2014, 78 percent of the U.S. population age 15 and above bought something online.  That percentage is expected to continue to grow.  In addition, BusinessInsider.com reports the key age group of 18-34 year olds spend nearly $2,000 per year online now. In addition, in a recent Experian survey 55 percent of e-commerce shoppers in the U.S. live in households with incomes above $75,000 (40 percent were in households earning $100,000 and above). We are into serious numbers worthy of our attention.

The point has been made.  We all recognize there is a lot of money to be made catering to online shoppers.  The problem is - just when many companies thought they had their e-commerce capabilities and strategies under control, consumer behaviors change.  How?  They jumped to mobile devices in the form of smartphones and tablets for much of the path-to-purchase journey.  In fact, in our analysis over three-quarters of path-to-purchase journeys are already completed before vendors are contacted, and much of it was completed using mobile devices.   If a retailer waits to be contacted before attempting to influence, they have missed the boat.  If marketing campaigns are desktop/laptop centric, they have missed key opportunities and demographics to influence.  If customers don't contact vendors until late in the path-to-purchase journey, then how can retailers effectively influence buying decisions?  They need to understand consumer behaviors in general, and mobile consumer behaviors in particular.

In a recent survey I conducted of 108 business and IT professionals, all purchased products and services online.  Of those, eighty-nine percent purchase products and services online using mobile devices (smartphones and/or tablets).  However, when asked what means they typically use for online purchases, thirty-nine percent answered desktops/tablets, twelve percent mobile devices, and forty-eight percent answered both desktop/laptop and mobile devices regularly.  This data highlights the fact that many mobile consumers still wait to purchase products online using desktops/laptops even if they researched the products on smartphones and tablets.  The use of multiple devices and computers in the path-to-purchase process highlights the need to support customers across all channels to ensure they have a beautiful and consistent customer experience.   This is not easy as there are a lot of moving parts and technologies involved.

To add to the complexity retailers face, different parts of the path-to-purchase journey are favored on different devices.  Yikes!  On-the-go searches and quick information discoveries are favored for smartphones.  Just search for a product or service and save the link.  In-depth research and rich product comparisons are often done on tablets with bigger screens.  For online purchases, consumers still overwhelmingly use desktops/laptops as they are assumed to be more secure.  Understood?  Don't, however, forget that many consumers still only use desktop/laptops and their behavior is different.  In fact, Cognizant just completed its 2015 Shoppers Survey of 5,000 people and forty-three percent typically only use computers for online shopping activities.

How often do people use mobile devices to make online purchases?  From my recent survey (108 business and IT professionals):
  • Daily 1.8%
  • Weekly 28.7%
  • Monthly 43.5%
  • Quarterly 19.4%
  • Yearly 5.5%
What time of day do consumers shop using mobile devices?  Here are the top three times from my recent survey ranked in order:
  1. Early morning
  2. Mid morning
  3. Early afternoon
Seems simple. Focus from 6 AM to 2 PM in each time zone, right?  Wrong!  When you look at different mobile consumer behaviors by age, there are considerable differences.  That means if you are selling to an older age group, they have very different online and mobile consumer behaviors than 18-24 year olds. The younger age groups spike upward in online shopping late at night, after all of us old people are asleep in bed.  Besides, desktop users find shopping in bed quite painful after a few minutes.

What location are mobile consumers at when they shop online?  That depends on what stage in the path-to-purchase they are in.  Here are the most popular locations for mobile consumer shopping from my recent survey ranked in order of popularity:
  1. Home - living room
  2. Work - desk
  3. Home - bedroom
  4. Home - TV room
  5. Coffee Shop/Restaurant
  6. Commuting - automobile/taxi/train/airplane/subway
If this mix is not rich enough, let's add gender differences!  In a November 2014 study conducted by Burst Media and Rhythm NewMedia titled Online Insights - Mobile Shopping Behaviors, it was found that among respondents who use mobile device(s) inside a physical retail location to help with the shopping experience, 58.3 percent were women and 47.7 percent were men.  That difference is meaningful.

I will stop here for today.  I am writing a lengthy report now on all the details of these studies.  If you would like to review these findings in detail and arrange a briefing, please contact me.  The bottom line is that consumers' path-to-purchase has been significantly impacted by mobile devices and if retailers and etailers are not in step with these changes, they will lose to competitors that are.

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.