Mobile Behavior: Hunting and Gathering

With the beginning of the new year, it seems to always be the time to ask the inevitable questions:

  • Will native apps truly invade all aspects of our personal and professional lives?
  • Will brands and companies now design for mobile first and Web second?
  • Will we finally use our mobile phone for everyday purchases?

We’ve seen these questions come up year after year, but there was real traction in 2010 for mobile. In 2011, we’ll continue to see improved speed to market in both innovation and marketing opportunities for mobile. In this spirit, let’s look at a few key mobile trends that will have a significant impact on consumer purchase decisions and behaviors.

Find It!

Mobile search highlights: In 2011, marketers will begin to think of mobile search in ways beyond the Google query. While mobile search will grow in terms of traditional search metrics, there will also be broader use of mobile search opportunities. Geo-location technology offers a fruitful path to innovation in mobile search. In 2010, Google introduced a “near me now” option in Google Mobile and Android. This feature allows users to browse nearby locations without entering any information themselves. Their phone simply uses GPS to figure out where they are.

Additionally, retail shoppers have turned to barcode scanners as a way of searching for price comparison and online deals before heading to the checkout. Visual search is also on the horizon, fueled with innovations like Google Goggles. A snapped photo of anything – a print ad, monument, or business sign – can trigger the loading of Web pages, videos, applications, and other content on a mobile device. The ease and speed with which consumers can pull up information about physical objects and locations will dramatically increase, which will have a significant impact on how consumers view brands and search for information and products.

Scan It!

Barcode/QR code highlights: Building on the previous trend, barcode readers will continue to see tight integration to both search and purchase. While this technology has been in place for a couple of years, barcode scanning is a habit that consumers are adopting at a rapid pace. Barcode technology provider Scanbuy reported that usage of its platform grew 700 percent between the start of 2010 and the beginning of Q4. In addition, a multitude of start-ups have emerged, which put varying spins on the idea of mobile search via barcode scanning. ShopWell, for example, collects user information such as health goals, diet approach, and allergies, then provides personalized ratings for products when they are scanned in-store. As smartphone penetration reaches 50 percent of U.S. consumers, expect the general public to continue to want to price compare while out shopping.

Buy It!

Mobile payments highlights: We’ve been patiently waiting for our cell phones to replace our credit cards, just as they replaced the family pictures in our wallets. While we’ve heard for years that mobile commerce will really take off, we’ve now seen established players such as PayPal introduce mobile commerce apps both on smartphones and in retail environments. PayPal has paved the way for future mobile commerce developments slated to be seen in 2011 with such developments as the release of its Mobile Express Checkout system. This two-click payment system has been integrated into the apps of such partners as Starbucks. The coffee giant integrated this functionality to allow customers to reload their Starbucks loyalty cards from within its existing app. PayPal is also integrating mobile payment solutions in the retail space. PayPal Labs in Japan has created a vending machine experiment that lets users scan an attached QR code with a smartphone, enabling users to pay for the goods with funds in their PayPal accounts. The vending machine then tweets the purchase as a confirmation.

2011 will continue this trend, however advances in near field communication (NFC) technologies and an onslaught of other software-based mobile solutions will bring the mobile wallet to the masses. NFC devices allow data transmission over a range of less than 8 inches, thus limiting a lot of security threats. There are several pilot programs currently in progress, some of which involve the major mobile network carriers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile) and the Discover Card network, and link users mobile phone accounts to their Discover credit card. Based on these advancements, your mobile phone will soon enable you to split a bill for a dinner with your friends or pay for that new pair of jeans in your local mall. These advancements give consumers less purchase obstacles and higher control, so it’s important that marketers recognize both the associated opportunities and threats.

There are many other highlights we’ll see this year in other behavioral aspects with mobile. We expect huge increases in mobile video consumption, advancements in location-based loyalty programs, and an overall expansion of native apps on everything from TVs to automobiles. 2011 is an incredibly promising year for both technology and marketing advancements in mobile, so as marketers, we must be ready to quickly incorporate them into our strategies.

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