It seems like every year we need to forget everything we know about mobile buying behaviors -- because they're always changing. This year especially, they seem far more complex, with consumers using multiple devices to get the kind of information they want, when they want it.
Last year, our own research revealed increases in the rate of smartphone conversions, tablet conversions, consumers who prefer to shop via mobile apps, and increases in the popularity of incentives like special offers and loyalty benefits.
This year, the data reveals a different story. Based on our most recent industry insights, we see five trends that reveal surprising changes in how consumers are using mobile.
Marketers who fail to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer preferences will lose out on big opportunities to build lasting connections, trust and loyalty.
Shoppers prefer mobile websites -- unless apps are faster
Tablet and smartphone users prefer to use mobile websites to browse product information and/or to make their final purchase rather than using a mobile app. One explanation is that mobile websites provide more information than in-app experiences. While consumers value simplicity when it comes to apps, they also need enough information to make their experience worthwhile. Sometimes dumbing down functions and/or information limits consumers who feel constrained when they want to use an app to browse and explore.
It's harder to get shoppers to download an app
Special offers and loyalty benefits are no longer as compelling as they once were. Rather, mobile users value speed. Insights reveal that speed is the number one characteristic that would encourage a person to download an app, even over a more streamlined check-out process and other perks.
Online shoppers love to "piggyback" devices
Mobile experts say that mobile conversions might be down this year because people are taking different routes to purchase. For example, experts suggest that people might use their desktop or laptop to browse products because pictures and product information are easier to view and read than on smartphones and tablets. Consumers might have a mobile coupon that is only good in-store, or perhaps they prefer to speak with a customer representative and then buy online to avoid long wait times at the register.
Consumers have a multitude of ways to buy, but it's clear they are maximizing their devices in a way that offers the fastest and most convenient path to purchase.
Day-to-day utility trumps sexy features
People are using mobile for simple tasks -- such as finding product information, store hours, and store locations. Mobile consumers value immediacy and hassle-free shopping, meaning that finding products easily makes their shopping experience more enjoyable.
Using smartphones and tablets for utility functions are common, according to Pew Research Center. A recent report says that people are using their mobile phones for quick tasks, short searches, brief references, and entertainment on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Pew data shows that people who used their cell phone and smartphone in the last 30 days used them for what they call "just in time" activities, such as setting up a meeting, solving an unexpected problem, finding information to settle an argument and deciding whether to visit a particular business, like a restaurant. People want to find the right information at the right time.
In addition to utility functions, we noticed that people like to see user ratings and reviews -- however, they don't necessarily need the ability to share news of their purchases with their friends. In other words, the social aspect of their actions isn't as important to them as it once was.
Cross-channel integration is critical
Mobile is an integral part of the in-store experience. Companies that can successfully bridge the offline and online experience will have the best chance of building lasting connections with shoppers, enticing them to engage more and longer with their brand.
A recent Forrester report shows that 75 percent of marketers consider digital marketing to be a highly effective brand-building tool. However, less than 45 percent actually have all-inclusive strategies in place.
Bridging the offline and online experience requires marketing teams to think about their digital properties holistically. Recall the old adage, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Marketers who think of mobile as just a bolt-on strategy -- or that create an app that works independently of their digital properties -- are not maximizing the sum of these channels.
Marketers should ask themselves how mobile can create different levels of conversation and uncover hidden needs that strengthen connections between their company and their customer. They should examine where digital connection points exist now and where they want these points to be, given that mobile is the default device preference for the majority of consumers.
Understanding your brand's relevance in the mobile landscape along with customer preferences, frustrations, and values will undoubtedly result in greater customer loyalty and higher profitability across all your digital channels.
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