How People Really Use Mobile

The Seven Primary Motivations, HBR 01/13

To marketers, the prospect of reaching shoppers through their smartphones is tantalizing. But mobile doesn’t always mean on the go. New data show that 68% of consumers’ smartphone use happens at home. And users’ most common activity is not shopping or socializing but engaging in what researchers at BBDO and AOL call “me time.”

Seven primary motivations
The reasons consumers use smartphones can be broken down into the goals listed at right, along with the average monthly minutes and percentage of interactions devoted to each.


SOURCES “Seven Shades of Mobile” study, conducted by InsightsNow for AOL and BBDO, 2012. In the first phase, 24 users completed a seven-day diary and in-depth interviews. In the second, 1,051 U.S. users ages 13 to 54 were surveyed, data on 3,010 mobile interactions were collected, and the mobile activities of two-thirds of those users were tracked for 30 days.

Making Bad Assumptions About App Use
Apps can have more than one purpose. Facebook, for instance, can be used for socializing, self-expression, or discovery. And if you’re using a shopping app to dream about what kind of couch or pizza you might order tomorrow, you’re in “me time.”


SOURCES eMarketer, 2011; IAB, 2011

Failing to Connect with Users During “Me Time”
Mobile ads that consumers see during “me time” generally do poorly on effectiveness (as measured by the percentage of viewers who click on the ad, search for the product, recall the product, or make a purchase). That’s because the majority of messages aren’t relevant to the context, are easy to ignore, or get in the way.


SOURCES eMarketer, 2011; IAB, 2011

Underinvesting in Mobile Media
Ten percent of consumers’ media time—but only 1% of all advertising money—is spent on mobile.


On AOL’s website, mobile users constitute 26% of page views but just 4% of ad revenue.


SOURCES eMarketer, 2011; IAB, 2011


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