Consumers use smartphones to supplement, not supplant, other devices for shopping, and marketers' use of mobile-enabled campaigns is lagging consumer adoption of the devices, according to a survey from Google and the Mobile Marketing Association.
Mobile Usage on the Rise
Smartphones—mobile phones that offer advanced, often PC-like functions or the ability to download apps—are used by 31% of American consumers. Among four other countries surveyed, the United States is trailed by citizens of United Kingdom (30%) and those in France (27%) Germany (18%) and Japan (6%).
Owen Charlebois, Google's global manager, advertising, marketing and media research, notes that while Japan is "one of the most advanced mobile countries in the world," the country has "a very high penetration of advanced-feature phones."
"It's possible that respondents may have confused the two and underreported their smartphones," he says.
Globally, 80% of consumers have used computers to access the Web within the previous seven days. Sixty percent used their mobile devices to do so, according to the survey.
Use of both channels to go online is only going to keep chugging along: Across the board, 90% consumers expect their smartphone and computer usage to either hold steady or grow during the next 12 months, with 25% anticipating an increase.
Search engines constitute a daily touchpoint for consumers, with 53% of American consumers using their smartphones to access them at least once a day. Consumers are also using apps on their phones. Within the U.S., they've installed an average of 23 on their phones–and paid for five of those. But installation does not equal use: During the 30 days prior to being surveyed, they've used only 10 of them.
Getting Social Via Mobile
What consumers are doing online is interacting on social networks. In the U.S., 78% frequently use their smartphones for this purpose, not far from the 87% of consumers who use their computers to do so. Among citizens from the five countries surveyed, Americans report the highest incidence of social network interaction via their phones.
U.S consumers also use their smartphones to obtain local information, with 90% doing so—a level matched only by Japanese consumers, and trailed by those in Germany (85%), France (83%) and the U.K. (81%). And U.S. consumers don't just look up information: 87% take some sort of action after obtaining it, such as visiting a business, calling a business or service, visiting the Web site of a business, looking up a business's location through mapping programs or making a purchase.
Mobile, Charlebois notes, is emerging as a purchase channel. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. consumers have made a purchase via their mobile devices, second only to the 45% of Japanese consumers who have done so.
Among the Americans who have not made a purchase via their phones, 65% say they prefer using a PC or laptop, while 37% feel the transactions aren't secure. Another 12% cite the purchase process being too complicated as a barrier.
These reasons mirror those given by consumers a few years ago when discussing their resistance to making purchases from their computers, says Charlebois, who believes consumer resistance will diminish over time.
What Marketers Need to Do
Marketers have some work to do in getting ready for consumers, once those resistances drop. Often their practices lag their stated desire to make purchasing easier for their customers—or so it seems. Unlike the consumer study, the data on the merchants' side was obtained from a comparatively small sample and should be treated as directional, Charlebois cautions.
For example, 33% of U.S. merchants surveyed report having sites optimized for mobile, a figure "higher than other data we have seen at Google, suggesting that some…may think they have an optimized mobile Web site when in fact they don't," Charlebois says.
Marketers also acknowledge the value of having an app: Those that do say they help with client communication, lead generation and creation of new business models for new revenue sources. For all that, only 19% of American advertisers have an app, according to the survey.
However, marketers see the value in apps, with 78% saying they consider them a worthwhile investment because increasing number of consumers have smartphones. Another 61% like the ability to target certain demographics based on devices, and 42% cite the attractive ad formats the devices host.
So what's keeping marketers from making these investments? Again, Charlebois cautions that these findings are direction based on a small sample size. That said, of those answering, 55% cite a limited advertising budget, while another 48% mention not having a mobile optimized Web site. A similar amount (46%) are unsure of how mobile advertising can work for their businesses, and 41% aren't certain about the ROI.
Integration and Interaction
Of those U.S. marketers with mobile strategies, 28% say their mobile activities are closely aligned with other marketing, while another 29% say these activities are "somewhat" aligned.
Marketing is a matter of timing, and mobile marketers seem to believe the earlier in the process they can start interacting with shoppers the better. Sixty-five percent of those with mobile strategies target consumers during the research phase, right at the start of the shopping process. Another 48% also do so during the comparison phase, and another 45% target prospects right at the purchase phase.
For all this targeting, few marketers quantify the impact of mobile marketing on in-store sales. Only 26% of American marketers do so—and that led the pack of the marketers from the five countries surveyed. Sixteen percent of German and Japanese marketers quantify mobile marketing's impact, while only 8% of French and 7% of U.K. marketers do so.
"While the mobile revolution is moving at different speeds across the globe, it is evident everywhere."