Back in 2007, if you were a smartphone owner, you were really cool and one of the much coveted by advertisers "early adopters" who would influence all around you to make their own purchases. It's now half a decade later and thanks to the fact that Android seems to be introducing a new phone every week and the carriers are basically giving away BlackBerries to anyone who will have them (don't knock them, lots of teen girls are texting and BBM-ing on those phones) smartphone users are not so special anymore. (The quick adoption of smartphones was one reason Ad Age Insights decided a Mobile Marketing series would be a good idea.)
InsightExpress has just released the latest installment of its quarterly Digital Consumer Portrait --conducted over the past 20 quarters -- and there is an overwhelming counter-intuitive trend emerging from the data: some advanced mobile behaviors are not on an ever-increasing trajectory. The use of check-ins is going down, but so is the accessing of video and usage of coupons on mobile phones. Huh? What is going up is smartphone penetration: Nielsen reports from November data that we've nearly reached the 50% mark. What I believe is happening is that we are moving beyond the euphoria, early adopter, guys-will-do-anything-on-phones phase into a realm where normal people who have lives and other things to do than play with their phones all day now have these mini-mobile computers.
The video piece going down is actually logical. Unless you are on 4G (still very limited market availability and Apple doesn't yet have a 4G model), video on your smartphone pretty much sucks -- you might do it as novelty, or when really bored, but all the time? Maybe not. I also think there's a "best available screen" phenomenon going on which data from FreeWheel -- it releases data on digital video ad views and usage of professional video content and its latest reports attest to the phenomenal video delivery device that the iPad is (full disclosure, I produce these reports). In just the past two quarters, even though there are many fewer devices in market, iPads best iPhones or Androids for sheer volume of video delivered.
The decline in people citing coupon usage on their phone needs further study. I wonder if it might be a burn-out factor of the now ubiquitous daily deal sites. At one point I had six of them coming into my inbox every day and then I called it quits. None of them have really differentiated their offerings and they have yet to use their data to increase the relevance -- don't send me another spa offer ever, Groupon and Living Social! Facials make me break out…but you didn't need to know that .
What does all this mean for marketers? It's actually good news: since smartphones are mainstream we can now reach people through a vibrant and viable third screen which reach of a huge chunk of the U.S. population. Forget about limited behaviors that require too much of the consumer-like check-ins. Marketers can reach consumers through the games they are playing, the weather they are accessing, the music services they are listening to, all through a device that is more personal and fundamental to people than perhaps their own wallets -- oh, but I am getting ahead of myself. That's indeed the direction the biggest mobile players like eBay/PayPal, Apple and Google all want to go. Let's check in next year and see where we are with mobile payments -- better yet, read all about what you need to know to prepare now in the Ad Age Insights trend report, Mobile Marketing: M-Commerce.