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Mobile presence critical to make impact before POS: Study

February 12, 2010

intent-studyAccording to a new survey by Ruder Finn, Americans are spending an average of 2.7 hours on the mobile Internet – connecting socially, managing their personal finances, and even as a means for advocacy.

Ruder Finn’s first-ever Mobile Intent Index studies mobile phone user habits and explores the underlying reasons – or intent – people have for accessing the mobile Internet. According to the Mobile Intent Index, mobile phone users do not access the mobile Internet for educational purposes or for creative expression.

“What marketers need to realize is that more than 2 in 5 people, and half of generation Y, are using mobile technology to compare prices on their way to buy products,” said Marty McGough, director of Ruder Finn Insights, New York. “An online presence is critical to make an impact before point of purchase.”

As expected, usage by gender and age differ – with men accessing the mobile Internet to escape, and women making others laugh.

The Mobile Intent Index asked respondents how frequently they use their mobile phones to go online for 295 reasons. The results show that immediacy is the primary factor driving behavior.

Additionally, the data underscores the rise of mobile phone applications. Three in five (61 percent) respondents download applications at least once per month while 36 percent of users download applications from social networking sites at least once per month.

Mobile technology means that people no longer have to wait until they are in front of their computers to do their work.

People are taking advantage of that and are using mobile devices to do their core work while using desktops to navigate longer format and higher bandwidth content and tools.

This is resulting in huge changes – and opportunities – across industries, making mobile an essential channel in keeping businesses competitive.

Here is a breakdown of the survey results:
• Mobile phones are a social connector. Ninety-one percent of mobile users go online to socialize, compared to only 79 percent of traditional users. They are using their mobile phones “at the moment” to connect with others. The top socialize intents are:

o Instant message – 62 percent
o Forward emails (58 percent), content (40 percent) and photos (38 percent)
o Post comments on social networking sites – 45 percent
o Connect to people on social networking sites – 43 percent

• Mobile phones are a personal finance tool. Mobile phone users (60 percent) are 1.3 times more likely to go online to do business compared to traditional users (45 percent). In fact, they are 1.6 times more likely to manage finances (62 percent versus 39 percent). Mobile phones offer users the chance to conduct business in real time, and this is the major reason that business-related intents are so high. The top business intents are:

o Online banking – 46 percent
o Check bill/credit card status – 40 percent
o Read business blogs – 33 percent

• Mobile phones are used for advocacy. Nearly half of mobile users (49 percent) go online to advocate compared to only 41 percent of traditional users. In fact, they (67 percent) are 1.4 times more likely than traditional users (47 percent) to activate support. Mobile phones offer users the chance to immediately respond to breaking news, whether it is a new piece of legislation or even the latest ongoing development of a corporation or politician under siege. The top advocacy intents are:

o Activate support for a cause or position – 67 percent
o Post opinions on social networking sites – 45 percent
o Forward content on a cause – 40 percent

• Mobile phones are not a learning tool. Mobile users (76 percent) are much less likely than all users (92 percent) to go online to learn. Learning requires time and patience, something mobile phone users are in short supply of. 

o They (64 percent) are 1.5 times less likely than the traditional user (96 percent) to go online to educate themselves
o They (64 percent) are 1.4 times less likely than the traditional user (94 percent) to go online to research.
o They (95 percent) are more likely than the traditional user (86 percent) to go online to keep informed.

• Mobile phones aren’t used for creative expression. Mobile users are 1.3 times less likely to personally express themselves online (42 percent) compared to traditional users (54 percent). The transitory nature of their intents speaks against spending the time to engage in discussions about personal issues while using their mobile phones.

o They (41 percent) are 1.7 times less likely than the traditional user (70 percent) to go online to opine.
o They (24 percent) are 1.8 times less likely than the traditional user (44 percent) to go online to be creative.

Intent of mobile phone users differ by gender and age

• Men look at prices but women buy. When shopping, men are more likely than women to compare prices (47 percent vs. 30 percent), but women are more likely to purchase (40 percent vs. 30 percent).

• Women express themselves while men do business. Women are much more likely than men to personally express themselves (49 percent vs. 35 percent) but men are much more likely to do business (62 percent vs. 57 percent).

• Men want to get away. Men (79 percent) are much more likely than women (61 percent) to use their mobile phone to simply “escape.”

• Women want to make others laugh. Many more women (70 percent) than men (58 percent) go online using their mobile devices to entertain others.

• Youth are the target for retailers. Youth (44 percent) are more likely to shop over their mobile phones than the average mobile user (35 percent).

• Seniors want to learn. Seniors (82 percent) are much more likely than the traditional user (64 percent) to use their mobile phones to educate themselves.

“It’s all about convenience for mobile users – quickly accessing timely information such as an address, a restaurant or the closest store,” Mr. McGough said. “Marketers need to be front and center on personalized search engines and consider the viability of shared platforms.

“There’s no one stop shop for mobile users,” he said.

Dan Butcher contributed reporting to this story.

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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