Majority Of Smartphone Users Online “Multiple Times” Daily

In New York, at the Mobile Marketing Association forum, Google presented sponsored research on global smartphone user and marketer behavior. The data come from two related studies. The first is an “an online survey of thousands of mobile consumers in 30 countries.” The second is based on “a telephone survey of 1,000 marketing decision makers,” with a focus on US, UK, Germany, France and Japan.

Google has done a number of mobile studies and recently presented those findings in several different contexts. It’s thus unclear whether this is completely new data. The findings, however, are striking and confirm what we already know: mobile is a vital resource for consumers and a critical medium for marketers — most of whom are late to the party already.

More than Half of Smartphone Users Online Daily

In the US smartphone penetration stands at about 36 percent according to the most recent Nielsen data. In Western Europe, on a percentage basis, the numbers are higher in several countries. The Google research showed that increasingly smartphone users go online daily and that many are on the mobile internet multiple times a day:

  • US — 58 percent (online) 53 percent (multiple times)
  • UK — 55 percent (online) 49 percent (multiple times)
  • France — 59 percent (online) 47 percent (multiple times)
  • Germany — 45 percent (online) 42 percent (multiple times)
  • Japan — 78 percent (online) 68 percent (multiple times)

Almost All Local Info Seekers Take Action

Here’s what the data showed about local-mobile information seekers and then the percentage who have “taken action” after a local search/lookup:

  • US — 90 percent (search/lookup) 87 percent (took action)
  • UK — 81 percent (search/lookup) 80 percent (took action)
  • France — 83 percent (search/lookup) 83 percent (took action)
  • Germany — 85 percent (search/lookup) 79 percent (took action)
  • Japan — 90 percent (search/lookup) 80 percent (took action)

What we don’t get to see from the data released is the frequency of local-mobile search activity overall. But we can safely assume that among the daily users of the mobile internet at least some of that activity involves local information lookups.

What’s especially impressive here is the direct relationship between the search/lookup and subsequent action. More than 90 percent of these local information seekers are taking action; in the case of France it’s 100 percent. These are extremely valuable consumers: they search, they buy.

Smartphone Usage at POS Very High

Speaking of buying, the Google data further reveal mobile shopping and research behavior at the point of sale. There’s already a lot of data in the market from multiple sources, showing the majority of smartphone users are doing research in stores (i.e., price, review lookups). Here’s what the Google research found about the percentages of smartphone owners doing mobile research at the point of sale:

  • US — 82 percent
  • UK — 68 percent
  • France — 82 percent
  • Germany — 65 percent
  • Japan — 75 percent

Often what people are doing is seeking to confirm that the product they’re immediately considering is worthy and a reasonable price compared to other stores — nearby and online. Indeed, growing percentages of smartphone consumers are making purchases on their devices:

  • US — 29 percent
  • UK — 28percent
  • France — 17 percent
  • Germany — 28 percent
  • Japan — 45 percent

Some of this buying is digital goods (e.g., apps, music). However over time more physical goods buying will shift to mobile devices and as it does trusted sources (e.g., Amazon) and brands (OEMs, retailers) are likely to win vs. no-name vendors. Here’s where it’s critical to have a mobile-optimized site and offer a great — capital “G” — user experience.

Third of Marketers Say They Have Mobile Websites

On to the marketer data. The Google study found that the number of businesses reporting that they have mobile optimized sites is as follows:

  • US — 33 percent
  • UK — 17 percent
  • France — 12 percent
  • Germany — 37 percent
  • Japan — 43 percent

I believe the Japan figure given the country’s long history with mobile content and transactions. I’m more skeptical of the US figure, however.

Google previously reported in February that among the “top 800 Google customers, 79 percent are not ready to engage [their] mobile customers.” It’s thus probably the case that a number of these survey respondents are stating an intention to develop a mobile site rather than reporting what already exists.

A smaller percentage of the same businesses reported having an app:

  • US — 19 percent
  • UK — 15 percent
  • France — 18 percent
  • Germany — 26 percent
  • Japan — 10 percent

Mobile Marketer Strategies Target “Upper Funnel”

Perhaps the most interesting “marketer finding” among those publicly released is that “65 percent [of business respondents] reported that their mobile strategy targets the research ["upper funnel"] phase of the shopping process.” This is consistent with historical data put out by US mobile ad network Millennial Media.

Mobile is arguably a more effective awareness medium than online display advertising. InsightExpress and Dynamic Logic have both independently documented this across their databases of brand advertising campaigns. However, what the Google data suggest is that most of these marketers are unsophisticated about how to use mobile and so are defaulting to the simplest and broadest approach.

If we revisit the local and shopping data above the takeaway is that mobile is potentially a very effective direct marketing medium and can influence behavior at or near the very bottom of the funnel. Mobile users doing local searches or in stores are on the cusp of buying and potentially open to influence (with the right offer or information).

Accordingly mobile is a parallel — though different — universe to the PC internet and can be used by marketers throughout the purchase funnel. It’s certainly the case that consumers are using their smartphones throughout the buying process.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Mobile | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Azzam Sheikh

    Here in the UK I am using my HTC Desire HD to make a lot of local searches. Being mobile on the move you are getting more and more dependant on search to find about anything you come across including the shopping experience.

    However in regards to buyer experience a lot of sites fail you when it comes to purchases. So far the best experience I have had is with ebay app which incorporates my paypal credential.

    All other sites tend to be clumsy when you are mobile or even if you are stagnant the UI is not convincing to make a payment purchase.

  • David Burdon

    I think the days of interview type data are past for mobile. Many website operators have real analytics data on usage, conversion and buyer behaviour. My own data – from 30,000+ mobile visits – suggests a wide disparity between devices. IPad performance approximates to desktop behaviour. But iPhone and Android behaviour is less positive. Also many of the current surveys are deliberately vague about the difference in use of mobile voice and mobile browsing.

  • Greg Sterling


    Fair points. Behavioral data is always better than survey data if it exists.

  • Greg Sterling


    Amazon and eBay are generally exceptions to otherwise poor mobile commerce experiences. Many companies who sell things online have not made mobile commerce a priority and there’s an opportunity cost there.

    Any mobile site that asks for credit card numbers and multiple fields to be filled out will be abandoned. Amazon and eBay have “one click” purchase capability. Comparable functionality will need to be incorporated by others if they are to see many transactions from mobile devices.

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