Mobile is not a channel: the multi-purpose impact of smartphones

ExactTarget recently released a report, called “Mobile Indepence Day” (guess when they released it). It’s an exhaustive overview of how one significant device in the whole mobile explosion, being the smartphone, impacts the way people communicate, network, transact and shop.

The survey focuses on the penetration and use of smartphones in the US but the authors draw some conclusions that are rather universal. In case you hadn’t noticed yet: while we all are still talking about social media, the more significant evolution that is happening right now is mobile.
Many industry people talk about mobile, just as they talk about social: as a separate and tangible channel. The underlying realities of both mobile and social are obviously richer, more diverse and consisting of so many phenomena, both in our personal and professional lives.

Furthermore, mobile, just like social, should be looked at from a multi-channel, multi-activity and integrated perspective. A smartphone is a device. However, it plays a role in many of our daily activities.

Smartphone usage data

  • According to IDC the worldwide smartphone market is expected to grow by 49.2% this year.
  • 66% of respondents check email at least once per day on their smartphone with 29% doing it constantly.
  • Half of all respondents goes on Facebook at least once per day via their smartphone.
  • 28% of smartphone owners used their phone at least once to check in using location-based services: that’s 12% of the overall US online population.

To put all this in perspective, we shouldn’t forget that simply calling, texting and browsing the internet are important activities as well. 18% of smartphone owners use their device to browse the internet constantly throughout the day and 58% do so at least once per day.

New types of usage and adoption of applications, including mobile banking, shopping, location-based, barcodes and mobile coupons, to name just a few, are growing rapidly. An example: 6% of the overall US online population has redeemed a mobile coupon.

The most interesting findings, however, are about the way mobile interacts with our daily activities such as social networking, shopping, communicating, etc., And it’s here that the multi-channel and multi-device marketing reality shows again.

The mobile Swiss Army knife: what people do with their smartphones

The authors of the ExactTarget report very rightfully say that mobile is not a channel. It is indeed not. Let me repeat: mobile is not a channel.

Mobile is like the modern-day version of the Swiss Army knife, the authors continue. I like that image. It further reduces the ‘channel’ reputation of mobile and stresses that it goes far beyond multi-channel: as marketers we also operate in a multi-purpose environment.

Just look at the selection of data below:

  • 34% of smartphone owners have checked the balance on their bank account via their device.
  • 23% paid a bill.
  • 17% read a book.
  • 27% liked a company on Facebook.
  • 20% shopped for competitive prices while in a store (!).

Those are interesting data. And it gets even better.

What people do with their smartphones according to ExactTarget Mobile Independence Day report

Source: ExactTarget Mobile Independence Day report

Multi-channel and purchasing impact of the smartphone

Let me repeat once more: mobile is not a channel. However, we use different channels on it. Furthermore, the use of those channels on smartphones impacts the way we use the same and other channels elsewhere. And it has an impact on our buying behavior.

Understanding that, is in the end what customer-oriented marketing is about as well: cross-channel interaction, while benefiting from all these mutual influences and cross-fertilization phenomena, depending on what people want where and how.

Just some final data to conclude:

  • 16% of consumers have completed a purchase as a direct result of a marketing message received on their smartphone.
  • 43% of them have completed the purchase on a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.
  • 35% completed the purchase in person.
  • 47% of smartphone users more likely check their email constantly throughout the day. In fact, email usage increases (!) with the purchase of a smartphone.

These are interesting findings, contradicting hype slogans such as “email is dead” but most of all showing how mobile interaction, and by extension other touch points, influence what we do via other channels or in real life.

Sure, there are challenges: we have to understand – and it’s about time – that the buying journey is not a linear one, and that we have to think multi-channel and multi-purpose, in our ways of doing marketing and business but also in our ways of measuring and interacting. That’s what CRM is about today as well.

You can download the report by ExactTarget here. And then it’s time to break down the silos.