Last updated: 5 Ways mobile changed consumer behavior forever

5 Ways mobile changed consumer behavior forever


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It would be an understatement to state that mobile devices have transformed the world we live in. We, as humans, crave being able to connect and communicate with other humans, which is why our favorite technologies throughout history have been ones that help us do that.

Writing comes to mind first, and that’s been going strong for more than 5,000 years. Relatively recently, about 600 years ago, the printing press and moveable type really caught on, and people got jazzed about bibles and newspapers before moving on to almanacs, novels, textbooks, and other printed knowledge vehicles. Radio and TV have been around even more briefly as methods of connecting and communicating, each having been commercially available for roughly 100 years and 60 years, respectively. Only in 2014, mere months ago, did the World Wide Web turn 25; Facebook has been around for 10 years now; and the iPhone has only been around for whopping 7 years.

After each exponentially shrinking epoch in the technologies that help people connect and communicate, consumer behavior changes significantly; sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, but always irreversible.

In this new digitally connected age, where everyone has a computer more powerful than the NASA space shuttle that landed on the moon resting in their hand, pocket, or purse, consumers have drastically different expectations of businesses than they did even a few years ago.

Let’s explore the biggest ways that things have changed, and some of the ways that businesses can step up to meet the new needs of their mobile and always-on consumers

1. My phone is my life: Not mobile-only, but mobile-first

More than half of consumers’ digital time is spent on mobile devices (60% according to comScore in June of 2014) – that’s over 3.2 hours per day. According to Altimeter, consumers check their smartphones upwards of 150 times per day.

Mobile has also changed the ebbs and flows of our day. Consumers are on their laptops and desktops while at work, tablets when they get home and unwind, and phones before bed, when they wake up, during their commute, and everywhere in between.

Consumers demand great experiences on their devices, and depending on your business, you’ll need to know when and how your different consumers are interacting with your products and services. Don’t completely abandon your desktop site, obviously, but consider mobile your first priority. Give those consumers a great experience when they need it, on the device they’re using, and you’ll gain a customer. Don’t, and you’ll lose them. According to Google, 67% of consumers are more likely to purchase if the mobile site experience is good, while 61% said they would leave a mobile site if they didn’t immediately find what they were looking for.

2. Instant gratification: Decision-making info must be available right away

To build off the above, not only does it need to feel like a great mobile experience, but I need to be able to find what I, the consumer, need right away to make a decision. Chances are, there are one or two key things I really want to do when I’m searching for businesses, products, or services. They may range from seeing a menu or making an appointment, to calling or messaging the business, to digging deeper into the product or service offering through downloadable content or videos, to finding directions, and anything in between. The potential key activities your consumer wants to do when interacting with your business while on-the-go are few, but the range of options depending on the type of business is vast.

For one, a business must have an optimized search experience that drives to their digital business properties. This is your SEO, SEM, and Local Search, and it’s as critical as the searchability and hierarchy of content on your own website. You’ll also need a site that’s easily scannable and where key interactions are obvious and intuitive.

If you’re going to invest in your mobile presence, you must maintain it; there’s nothing worse for a consumer than a broken, useless mobile site experience once they’ve gone to the trouble to find you.

There are an array of tools out there that can help you easily maintain your mobile presence, and it’s worth the upfront time investment in researching and analyzing these tools because they’ll save you time, headache, and cost later.

3. Everything is transparent: Social + mobile have given everyone a voice

Think your product or service can still survive solely behind a great marketing message? Not anymore. Between ratings & reviews on Amazon and BazaarVoice, social discovery tools like Yelp and Foursquare, to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, your brand experiences will be public and they will be more impactful than the messages on your website, ads, or any other communications from your brands. All of these social channels are now mobile channels, as well, and so the reactions that your products and services get from consumers are even more quickly reproduced online. Just ask United or Comcast.

Will they be 100 percent honest, truthful, or fair? Absolutely not; just ask any restaurant on Yelp. But according to Nielsen in 2013, 84 percent of consumers trust recommendations on products and services from people they know or are digitally connected to, versus 42 percent for a digital banner ad. Perception is reality online, and what people say about your products and services across all social and mobile channels will be taken at face value among the large majority of consumers.

Learn to embrace this change, not fight it. Jump on every opportunity to create a great consumer experience, and what you’ll actually be creating is a digitally vocal brand advocate.

4. I expect the full experience: No truncating, even for shopping

The consumer now expects to be able to complete any action from their phone/tablet. Based on the device type, consumer activities absolutely vary; phones are generally for communication, tablets are generally for entertainment at home (and are shared), while the laptop/desktop is used primarily at home and primarily for work tasks (like finances, etc.). Mobile experiences cannot be truncated any longer; it simply doesn’t align with consumer expectations.

Importantly, more than 40% of online adults sometimes begin an activity on one device and finish on another, according to a recent study.

In the same study, this number increases, intuitively, with the amount of devices the consumer has: 53 percent of people who own two devices switch between them to complete tasks, and 77 percent of people who have three devices switch to complete tasks (GfK Nov – Dec 2013 “Multi-Device Usage Study”). This means you need to allow consumers to make appointments, check real-time inventory and availability, and yes, purchase, from any device. No “come back on your computer to finalize your purchase”; no gaping holes in your site experience.

The good news is that there are more tools than ever before to help you with the mobile experience across all of your business touchpoints. Square is continually releasing feature upgrades and enhancements; most recently, they rolled out turnkey Square Appointments.

5. Right content, right time, right device: Smart, conditional content

Content is king. The old adage is as true today as it ever was before. However, with all of the changes to the consumer’s daily life due to their always-on connectedness, there is another element at play with your content. We say, “Content is king, and Context is your ace,” because without context, you aren’t providing the right content, at the right time, in the right channel, on the right device for a given consumer. Businesses need to truly understand their consumers at a new, deeper level now because we have the data, and there are tools available in the marketplace that essentially take care of the content+context challenge.

And having an understanding of context to this degree is not just a marketer’s dream; it’s also the expectation that consumers now have. While privacy is still at a premium among consumers, some knowledge of them is still desired and even anticipated. You, the business, should know that I’m on my phone, not my desktop, when I request more product information. You should know that I’m already a fan on Facebook and I follow you on Twitter. You should know that it’s Tuesday at 4pm, so if I’m looking for your menu, you’d better show me the dinner menu, and not the weekend brunch menu.

By creating an amazing, personalized experience through context and marketing tools, businesses will be able to wow their consumers, win them over, and transform them into digital brand advocates, increasing both their lifetime value to your business through loyalty and creating new business for you through references and referrals.

The new mobile consumer is amazingly different than even a few years ago. While preferences and expectations have evolved with the advances in mobile technology, businesses, too, are becoming savvier, and the landscape of mobile consumer data and mobile tools at the disposal of today’s marketers is ever improving.

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