Creating a mobile strategy for me, myself and I
The mobile is the greatest relationship that we have on a daily basis. Whether we like it or not, or we want to readily admit it or not, the mobile phone spends more time with us than our partners, children, family, friends, pets, tennis partners, you name it.
It’s an old stat and probably needs updating, but generally the mobile phone is with us for more than 16 hours a day, and for a growing number of people 24 hours a day. It knows our intimate secrets, our usernames and passwords, our location, it is present during important meetings and with us when we are with our loved ones, and it records our memorable moments. And let us not forget that it also lets us communicate.
There is no escaping the fact that our mobile phone shapes, and even defines, our life on a daily basis. It is not so much the device itself but the apps that reside on it. Flurry said at the MMA Forum in London that 87% of our mobile time (2 hours on average) is spent using apps, leaving just 13% browsing.
We download and then use the apps that fulfil our needs and requirements as and when required. These are the apps and services that we trust and make our mobile phone considerably more than just a personal device. These apps make our mobile device our ultimate side-kick. C3-P0 has R2-D2, Delboy has Rodney, Dr Who has K-9, and Shrek has Donkey; to this end, the smartphone has become our trusted steed.
So how can brands become an integral part of our mobile daily life? Or to put it in a more pertinent way, how can brands become an integral part of our “trusted” mobile daily life?
A successful mobile strategy has to appeal to “me, myself and I” but in a scalable way. Every individual needs to feel as though an app developed by Brand X was specifically designed for that user, whom then feels connected and loved by Brand X. We can potentially call this Brand-2-1 marketing, because let’s be honest, the concept of 1-2-1 marketing is pretty much that ‑ a concept. The ultimate goal for any brand is to therefore penetrate our mobile defences, our app fortress, and become incorporated into our mobile usage.
But this is becoming increasingly challenging because of how we use our smartphone. We are now faced with numerous options every time we unlock and activate our phone.
Mobile is fundamentally a time-driven mechanism, with usage shaped by a number of factors. Mobilesquared’s recent research involved the monitoring of app usage over a 2-week period, with users on average using 36 apps of which approximately 22 were used on a daily basis. Analysis of the research revealed that each time we now activate our phone we make a series of subconscious decisions based on “session length”, “external distractions”, “ongoing interactions” and “time of day”, all of which will influence each mobile session.
Short interactions – which cover phase 1 of mobile time ‑ typically last less than one minute and involve checking the status of missed calls, messages, email, Facebook, and Twitter, and time permitting, browsing favourite sites. Longer mobile session interactions – 1-10 minutes – permit greater engagement of voice, messaging, email, Facebook and Twitter, and browsing. Longer mobile sessions – in excess of 10 minutes ‑ will result in the user ultimately migrating from phase 1 to phase 2 and focusing on one service, whether that is gaming or watching a downloaded film or programme, for example. The research has shown that the average mobile user will only migrate to phase 2 once phase 1 has been successfully negotiated. Furthermore, phase 1 is based on communication and phase 2 linked to richer media experiences.
Location is primarily the determining factor when it comes to external distractions impacting on mobile usage. This can range from 3G/4G/Wifi coverage, but it could also include whether at work or home, travelling, or with whom we are with at any given moment of time. The weather can also influence our mobile session, as well as battery life to name a few.
Both phase 1 and phase 2 of mobile session activity will also be influenced by ongoing interactions. We’re now seeing mobile behaviour on a daily basis that is actually very structured and orderly. Therefore, each interaction has a predisposed purpose, whether that is to check Facebook or reply to an email (phase 1), or to try and get to the next level of a game or the resumption of a film (phase 2).
All of these actions are part of an ongoing routine extending from a previous mobile session that will inextricably shape subsequent mobile sessions. So much so, that much of this behaviour can be unequivocally linked to our daily loop of mobile activity which can be directly linked to the time of day.
Time of Day
The greatest influence of all mobile usage is the time of day. Deeper analysis of the research revealed that app usage can be categorised into “communication”, “information”, “utility” and “entertainment”. Communication apps would be used throughout the course of the day effectively running in the background, information and utility apps would be used first thing and then in the evening, while entertainment apps would dominate evening usage. On an average day, entertainment apps and information apps accounted for 75% of mobile time. But most interesting of all, is that we repeat our mobile usage on a daily basis. The majority of our mobile usage is very much Groundhog Day.
The Mobile Minute
From our research we have identified the first minute of mobile time will define the user’s behaviour for that mobile session and whether they will progress from phase 1 to phase 2. We call this period “The Mobile Minute”; the point at which a user will go through their app routine at the start of their mobile session before focusing on one particular app or service for an extended period of time.
The research reveals that despite all of the apps stored on our smartphones, mobile users have a natural filter allowing the selection of key apps to suit our needs and requirements at particular points of the day. The fact that we repeat our mobile sessions on a daily basis highlights that mobile time is actually predetermined by the time of day.
A brand’s opportunity
The mobile minute gives brands less than 1 minute to effectively ensure that a user will engage with their app or service once they have completed phase 1 of their mobile session. The challenge for every brand is to position their offering in the mixer for phase 2, whether that is as a utility, for information or entertainment purposes.
Because mobile session usage is predetermined on an almost daily basis, with apps fulfilling a daily role as required by the user, how can brands penetrate this “inner circle of trusted” apps?
The research indicates that brands should not look to challenge this established hierarchy, but look to supplement or complement apps and services that users are already using. In essence, a successful mobile strategy for a brand is to encourage the user to extend their mobile time and incorporate their app or service into the user’s daily session.
Given that the average mobile user spends 22 hours not interacting with their smartphone, creating a mobile strategy that will extend a user’s daily mobile time beyond 2 hours is the clear opportunity for brands. To achieve this, a brand will need to understand a user during non-mobile time. Presently, mobile strategies are based on an understanding of people by their behaviour on the mobile. But we spend considerably more time not using our mobile. So brands need to reverse their approach to mobile and develop a strategy that complements and supplements existing mobile time.
Understandably, brands are concerned that they will be viewed as intrusive if they get their mobile strategy wrong and attract adverse negative reaction on social media which can be very damaging. Get it right, and they will be lauded.
But perhaps the pressure for a brand to deliver on mobile is not as great as initially perceived. Additional mobilesquared research in the UK conducted earlier in 2013 exploring how consumers would like brands to communicate with them, reveals that brands are actually under-utilising the mobile opportunity. Typically, consumers would like brands to communicate with them between 0900 and 1500. While brand and business research highlighted that some 12% of brands and businesses do communicate with customers between 0900 and 1200, there is a shortage of communication from brands to consumers for the remainder or the day. When it comes to mobile messaging marketing in particular, this channel is under-utilised by between 70-90% by brands month-on-month. The top line is that consumers want to interact with brands on mobile.
Competing with existing apps and services ingrained in the mobile user’s daily routine is going to be a big ask. But by identifying ways of extending mobile time, capitalising on these mobile “void” periods, mobile downtime, whatever you want to call it, presents the greatest opportunity for a brand. Ultimately, brands need to be braver, bolder and brasher on mobile.