It's no secret that smartphone usage has proliferated rapidly over the course of the last few years. The rectangular glow of these devices provides ambient lighting for virtually every stretch of our nation. And while the ubiquity of these devices is evidenced by their presence in the pockets of Kiwis of all ages, this anecdotal observation doesn't provide enough accuracy to drive media decisions.
This week, Google released its Consumer Barometer report, which provides a breakdown of the media consumption habits of people across the world. And contained within this report was a section dedicated specifically to the Kiwi market. The report was subdivided into five areas of interest: the online and multi-screen world; the smart shopper; the local shopper; the international shopper; and the smart viewer. And a consistent theme across the investigation was that online use is high and that Kiwis are becoming increasingly willing to view content on smaller screens.
The study showed that 33 percent of Kiwis now consume online content equally via smartphone and computers or tablets, while 23 percent say that they use smartphones more often. This shift toward smaller screens is largely driven by the fact that Kiwis are have become accustomed to the technology, with over 74 percent of survey respondents having used a smartphone for over 12 months.
So comfortable are consumers on smartphones that 45 percent of respondents admitted they were equally likely to use smartphones and computers to visit search engines and social networks.
"The smartphone has well and truly come of age in New Zealand, with the overwhelming majority of us owning one," says Tony Keusgen, the country director of Google in New Zealand. "And when it comes to searching online, we now use mobile phones almost as much as desktop computers. With our phones readily available all day, we use them to help us in hundreds of micro-moments every day. It's fair to say that Kiwis no longer go online, we live online."
And living online has led to shopping there—often via a smartphone.
The 'smart shopper' section of the study showed that 52 percent of Kiwis now see online information as key in introducing customers to products and offers. But this doesn't mean that more traditional forms of media are to be ignored, with the report showing that consumers rely on a mix of online and offline information on the road to making a purchase. Notably, almost a quarter of respondents said that they only rely on offline information.
When it comes to product research, consumers are still primarily reliant on computers, with 76 percent saying that they are most likely to browse on the larger screen.
Interestingly, while websites are certainly important for the consumer's path to purchase, retailers shouldn't take a sledgehammer to the bricks and mortar just yet, in that the study showed that 45 percent of respondents still research and purchase offline while 21 percent said that they research online and purchase offline.
Recently, Spark announced a series of partnerships with the aim of providing businesses with the tools to improve their online offering—and this move makes sense given the importance that Google's report places on websites to local businesses.
These days, only five percent of Kiwis rely on only offline information to find local businesses. And Kiwis are using a combination of search engines, business websites, social networks and local discount sites to find the information that they need.
And it pays to put the pricing on a website, because 58 percent of online shoppers say that this is the information they are most interested in when researching a business online. However, price sat behind availability in terms of factors that shoppers take into account when selecting a local business.
What this implies is that e-commerce sites for products or services should include an option availability or booking element to make the path to purchase easier for clients—failing to do so could lead the customer to looking elsewhere.
An effective online presence is becoming increasingly important because local companies are likely also in competition with international vendors.
When asked how often they buy products from international sites, 58 percent of respondents said they do it at least once a year (only 14 percent said that they do it less often than this). Availability, better conditions, a broader range and appealing offers all ranked as prominent reasons why consumers shop internationally. Somewhat unexpectedly, books and CDs were the products that customers said they purchased most often from abroad, followed by clothing and accessories and cosmetics.
However, the one thing that local vendors still have over their international competitors is that they don't have a language barrier. In responding to a question on whether poor translation was a hurdle for people when buying abroad, 71 percent of respondents said it was.
How long this remains an issue is to be seen. The result of this enquiry would've no doubt alerted Google to the issue, and it's likely that the search engine will look for ways to improve its website translation offering. And since Skype is already able to translate conversations in real-time, it's only a matter of time before Google introduces improvements that make widely spoken languages more accessible to those that might not speak them (in fact, this process has already kicked off in the augmented reality space). This could in effect open the door for casual Kiwi consumers to online shopping direct from China, India or other major manufacturing markets.
The final area of inquiry in the Google report looks at what smartphone users are using their devices for, and it confirms that video is starting to play a big role.
Around 26 percent of respondents admitted that they now watch video on their smartphones on a daily basis, while only 19 percent said that they never do this. As data plans continue to reduce in price, and with Wi-Fi widely available, the consumption of online video via smartphones is only set to increase over the next year.
"Kiwis love to watch video online," says Keusgen. "And when we watch video online, we really focus on it: only 1 percent of New Zealanders say they regard online video as a background activity."
Because online video consumption is often driven by consumers specifically going to a site (like YouTube for instance) to watch a video, the level of focus tends to be quite high. And interestingly, watching a video on a smartphone doesn't appear interfere with this in that the level of focus was the same on both smartphones and computers.
Although the Google report says many things that the industry has been aware of for quite some time, it does introduce clear data to further illustrate where the Kiwi audiences are. And at a time where every marketer is chasing eyes across channels, this could research could help them to make more educated decisions regarding their online ad spend.
Click here to see the full report.