The tipping point has tipped: Jonathan Dodd lands on Google’s mobile planet

Last Christmas I bought my wife a smartphone, a tidy lower-specced version of my work-provided Samsung Galaxy. Thinking I had spent $800 on her present (the kind of money our household reserves for cycling accessories) I had to mollify her by pointing out that it had only cost $100.

And so we had reached the tipping point for smartphone usage in New Zealand: lower the barrier to entry and just watch as penetration and usage rockets up. This has all been confirmed in the just-released 2013 global smartphone usage survey, conducted by Ipsos for Google in 48 countries for the last few years. The data is all available online, and country-by-country reports can be downloaded as well as customised charts developed on-the-fly. I’ve especially enjoyed comparing New Zealand data with Australian.

So, some highlights worth noting (the New Zealand data is based on 1,000 smartphone users aged 18-64 years). 

More usage, more places, more often

First, we noted the growing accessibility of smartphones, indicated through the number used for personal use. This has risen from 54 percent in 2011 to 60 percent this year.

But more interestingly, it’s what people are doing with their smartphones that has really changed.

For example, the proportion using their smartphones every day for general internet use (not email or texting) has risen from 59 percent to 76 percent; and 81 percent of smartphone users email or message via their smartphone browser or app every day, compared to 51 percent last year.

One big increase will be of interest to retailers in particular. when we asked people where they used their smartphones, more people are using their smartphone in more places, right across the board, but the biggest jump was in those using their smartphones in-store: up 16 percent to 47 percent. We also found that 23 percent had changed their minds about purchasing a product or service in-store as of a result of information they had gathered using their smartphones.

Overall, 42 percent say they are using their smartphone more than they were six months ago.

So clearly it pays to be findable via smartphone. We asked people how often they look for information about local business or services on their smartphones, and found the share answering “every day” has almost doubled from 2012 to 21 percent, and those doing this weekly also risen, from 28 percent to 37 percent. The proportion contacting the businesses (through any channel) they find via their smartphone has also increased, up slightly to 70 percent.

M-Commerce moving on up—and so are usability expectations

Our research also found that more people are buying via their smartphones, and we’re not talking apps here. Excluding apps, there has been a six percent increase in those buying with their phones. Overall this is now at 33 percent, led by purchases in clothing, entertainment and personal travel. Intriguingly, many of these smartphone purchases are not being made via these devices because people are away from a PC – 35 percent of smartphone shoppers had made these purchases while at home. 

Some 14 percent of New Zealand smartphone users are now buying via their phone weekly or more often, and many more are doing their research on their phones and then buying via other channels. For example, we found that 35 percent had made offline purchases following their smartphone research, up seven percent on last year.

But clearly, many are not buying with their smartphones, and so we asked why. The old chestnut about credit card security remains (29 percent), but far more non-shoppers cite the small screen, which restricts what they can see about the items they are researching (40 percent). A further 28 percent said that it is too hard to compare products and prices via their phone, and the same number mentioned the lack of detailed product information. 

However, most aren’t blaming the smartphones for these problems, with 68 percent expecting the websites they visit on their smartphones to be as easy to navigate as they are on a desktop PC or tablet. The proportion holding this view has risen eight percent since last year, so clearly consumer expectations of the smartphone experience are rising.

Smarten up your smartphone status

Clearly the potential of smartphones within the suite of available marketing options can no longer be ignored and consumers are doing more, buying more and expecting more from the smartphone experiences that brands are presenting. 

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