Why Targeting The 'Mobile Elite' Will Make Or Break Your Business

Smartphones are now in the hands of the majority of American adults, and mobile devices now account for 23 percent of the time they spend with any media. Activity five years ago that was considered “early adopter” behavior — like showrooming — is now mainstream.

Businesses, however, are still playing a game of catch up. Digital accounts for less than a third of the total marketing budget, and mobile accounts for an even smaller percentage of the digital pie.

The Customer Research Disconnect

Our recent survey of mobile consumers found that companies that perform mobile marketing activities on a regular basis spend $5.5 million for mobile apps and $5 million for mobile sites every year. A budget that may seem tiny to TV advertisers is currently viewed as sufficient for a mobile experience. Yet some of the marketers I speak with have done little original research on their mobile audience.

Meet the “Mobile Elite”

According to our survey, 28 percent of mobile users are considered the “mobile elite:” people who spent more than $750 in the past year buying via mobile channels, or spent more than six hours per week with media and entertainment apps or mobile Web sites. Similarly, in our survey, 17 percent of respondents identified themselves as “experts” in mobile marketing who are more likely to measure customer engagement with mobile on a weekly basis.

If companies want to be in that top tier — the 20 percent of companies with a well-defined mobile strategy — they can start by better understanding the mobile elite. These “elite” are not stereotypical country-clubbers, nor are they necessarily young — they are simply people who are highly engaged with their devices and use them to address every social, financial and informational need possible.

Mobile Elite Use the Smartphones and Tablets for Everything

So how do the mobile elite engage? Four out of five people in the mobile elite have a tablet in additional to a smartphone, and use mobile apps with greater frequency. Here are a few of the behaviors across verticals that stand out:


  • Make person-to-person payments (67 percent of elite vs. 49 percent of total)
  • Research or shop for new financial accounts (39 percent of elite vs. 19 percent of total)
  • Review brokerage account, individual stock or mutual fund positions (44 percent of elite vs. 21 percent of total)


  • Research travel destinations (81 percent of elite vs. 47 percent of total)
  • Compare travel prices (71 percent of elite vs. 39 percent of total)


  • Check product and price information (70 percent of elite vs. 52 percent of total)
  • Product comparison (52 percent of elite vs. 38 percent of total)

Media and Entertainment

  • Post information on social networks (59 percent of elite vs. 39 percent of total)
  • Listen to music (60 percent of elite vs. 38 percent of total)
  • Stream music (35 percent of elite vs. 18 percent of total)

A better understanding of your customers who engage with mobile, in addition to when, how often, and for what purpose they engage will allow you to reach more of them — increasing conversion rates and ultimately, the bottom line.

Your Mobile Customer is Not You

Those involved in the marketing of a business are often not the primary target customer of what they are selling. Although marketers may spend significant funds on customer research, they may not know how customers think about a product or service when they engage via a mobile device. A richer contextual understanding of “mobile moments” (as defined by Forrester) enables the creation of more relevant mobile experiences, and allows businesses to better market those experiences to the best customers.

A few years from now, when 70% of Americans will have a smartphone, will it pay to treat mobile as an “emerging” channel? Understanding today’s mobile elite is the only way to prepare for the mainstream of tomorrow.

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