By Simon Mackenzie, Senior Planner
Google has updated its mobile insight platform Our Mobile Planet. It’s a great resource and especially diverting if you are a graphing nerd, and a mobile enthusiast (check, and, check).
I’ve spent a little time querying it to look at the subtle differences in the statistics between the regional areas we at STEAK are most focused on and I thought I’d share some inferences.
First up let’s look at the influence of the smartphone over purchase (which is a good proxy for ‘how disruptive is mobile already to my business?’ particularly is you’re a multi-channel retailer).
USA consumers are significantly ahead on these disruptive behaviours:
I think this is where everyone is going though, and not some character feature of our cousins across the pond. Looking at penetration you can see (at least averaged across all regions; bit of a blind spot there), the UK and Australia are way ahead, especially with both younger consumers (the future) and consumers in the fat affluent middle (the now):
My intuition is that overall penetration isn’t giving us the whole story here though, and that there are big differences between different states in America. I’d expect to see high early adopter device penetration in the metropolitan areas there driving adoption of these consumer behaviours. If anyone has state by state data for this, please send it along – I’ll happily drop it in a fusion table and make a pretty visualisation for here.
What’s really sparked my interest though is when you look at who’s rocking their first ever smartphone:
Although it’s not massively different, this seems to me like America is just far enough ahead of the adoption curve here to be exhibiting more advanced behaviours (as seen in the first chart). Look how many Australians are on their first smartphone, and with the highest overall penetration at 52%. (Australia is really embracing mobile at the moment, and with a commensurate up-swing in overall e-commerce take up it’s getting very exciting down under).
Give it a year and I’d expect all the research behaviours in the top chart to jump a lot higher across the board, and potentially catch up and surpass America in UK/Aus (by way of a kind of viral spread, if they max out adoption fast).
A cautionary note: I wouldn’t get too hot for direct m-commerce though, and here’s why:
Apart from ourselves in the UK being a little more paranoid about security (phone hacking anyone?), the barriers are more or less the same everywhere: security and preference for desktop for final purchase. That will start to drop I’m sure, but I’m not convinced these are exactly teething troubles: more aspects of what’s appropriate to people on what device form.
For the bulk of items I still imagine desktop/laptop/tablet (and in the home, importantly) will be the preferred end purchase point for most. That’s a judgment on consumer preference and prejudice though and we could all be happily proved wrong here in the next few years. The clear multi-channel / m-commerce challenge is understanding how these new behaviours effect the whole retail journey, and figuring out a robust way to measure and manipulate this.
So back to those disruptive behaviours
One of those challenges facing retailers that’s got a bit of headline time recently is something the trend-setters in the industry are calling “Showrooming”; using the physical retail store as a place to research a product tangibly, while searching for pricing and outlets online (often at Amazon).
You can easily see the appeal; if I’m shopping for an item that might be awkward to get home, why would I pay the high street price and organise the shipping when I can get it online cheaper and faster? Better to get a good idea of what I want in a store and use my phone to confirm my options for online.
Retailers are right to be getting decidedly twitchy about this; if it catches on in a mainstream way it could change the consumers’ relationship with the high street fundamentally. If that relationship changes, retailers will need to think very hard about what the high street store evolves into.
As ever though, with every dangerous disruption there comes plenty of opportunity to innovate and take advantage. If people do start ‘showrooming’ as a matter of course, I can see Pure-Plays aggressively capitalising on that with a service like the excellent Shutl doing very fast same-day home delivery.
The scenario is not hard to visualise; Joe Bloggs goes into RetailerX, picks a TV, buys it on his phone from PurePlayX and Shutl deliver it 20 minutes after he gets back home on the bus.
I’d shop that way, and I imagine many others might too. Combatting this kind of consumer behaviour and figuring out how a brand’s value proposition stays compelling enough to survive that mobile-induced disruption is today’s looming big ticket issue.