Changing The Game: Mobile Moves Behavior

I recently spent time at the Mobile Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe listening to and speaking with mobile marketers who are themselves surprised at the tectonic shift of user behaviors to mobile. Google, Yahoo, Travelocity, Pandora, OfficeMax, and many other brands were there, and almost everyone reported the sometimes-shocking acceleration of mobile use in their categories.

For instance, 48% of Pandora users now access the music streaming service exclusively through mobile devices, either smartphones or tablets. At Hotels.com, 10% of bookings are now being made on mobile devices. According to Travelocity's VP of Global Product Marketing Beth Murphy, mobile access is changing buyer behavior in the category. Fully functional mobile apps and sites now allow the user to book later and research away from the Web itself. Mobile is going to reshape the purchase funnel in many categories.

Traditionally in digital, it is always a bad idea to bank on the prospect of changing consumer behavior. After all, the reason behavioral targeting can work so well is because past actions are reliable predictors of future ones. We are creatures of habit, and only when a new medium becomes ritualized in our society is a critical mass of users reliably available to media and marketers. Arguably, the Internet itself, first envisioned by mass media as a new content-consumption platform, was most profoundly embraced by users as a communications platform. Email has always been the killer app here, and few in 1997 would have supposed social networking would be the killer app a decade later. More often than not, new technologies do not change societies; instead, the societies impose on the technologies patterns of use that combine perennial needs with some new patterns. Ask any spouse; you just can't bank on people changing for you.

However mobile, both in smartphone and in tablet formats, appears to be that rare instance where a gadget really is fundamentally altering behaviors. To put some real data points behind the anecdotes above, Chadwick Martin, Baily just released a new report on how smartphones and tablets are changing consumers' entertainment behaviors. For instance, 89% of respondents said that in the last year they have used maps and directions content on other media less because they are consulting their smartphones and tablets instead. For watching movies, 79% say they use other platforms less.

At the Tahoe Summit, Vivaki/Starcom MediaVest's Innovation Director Tracey Scheppach said flat-out that the tablet/iPad was a game-changer for media consumption, on a level she had never seen before in her years covering emerging platforms. The CMB study may bear this out. iPad owners were reporting that they are substituting fablet viewing of TV and movie media for other touch points. For instance, 45% of those who are substituting tablet for another device are watching movies on laptops less often and 34% report going to the movies less often. In this slice, women tend to use the tablet to substitute movie theaters and TV more than men, who are replacing laptops and game machines. It is not a zero-sum game, however. Overall media consumption is going up as a result of the additional touchpoints.

But there are some patterns of behavior that media mobility will affect. The portability of mapping and directions, for instance, alters both online and offline research and purchase patterns. With 80% of all mobile device owners using them for mapping or directions in the last year, 67% say they are not using the Internet as often to look up and print these items. And in a shift that actually could affect a retail segment's bottom line, 60% say they stop less often for directions at places like gas stations because of mobilized directions/maps.

Of course some old stereotypical traits are behaviors that will die hard. According to CMB, 66% of men are substituting mobile mapping for stopping to ask directions, while 54% of women are doing the same. What did we tell you? Technology never really trumps nature.       

Recommend (5)
1 comment about "Changing The Game: Mobile Moves Behavior ".
  1. Steven Groves from Social Marketing Conversations, LLC , September 2, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.

    Steve - I agree te shift to mobile in digital marketing has occurred VERY fast, but I am not sure I agree with "Traditionally in digital, it is always a bad idea to bank on the prospect of changing consumer behavior." The researchers at Goldman even suggested that the disruptive impact of mobile devices would create the largest breakdown of capital and similarly the greatest destination for investment, of any technology to come before - and it would happen faster than anyone anticipated.

    So we knew it was coming and I, for one, am happy it's here.