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The Complex Journey Towards Purchase: Mobile in the Mix

by Guillaume Guerrin , 11.11.2013

With the rise of mobile shopping, and the trove of “big data” associated with those activities, one would think that it would be a breeze to learn about the tastes, habits, and demographics of these people.  Since 69% of US consumers who own smartphones say they won’t leave home without them, marketers are forever plugged into a highly engaged audience of devoted users – and shoppers.

But, in some ways, connections between online marketplaces and traditional retailers are still nascent. Only 28% of smartphone users say they can find the same products online and in-store. And even though 1 in 5 online sales now take place on a mobile device, only 40% of brands have a mobile optimized site. This leaves out a bounty of business, simply by not accommodating the tech and research savvy; and it means we are missing out on a wealth of consumer data.

Marketing wisely online, especially via mobile devices, requires a real sense of how people buy. To achieve this, we have to start from the beginning, and follow consumers’ complex digital and “analog” journeys.

Where does this journey start?

Every purchase journey begins with the thought of fulfilling a need. For online customers, the next stop is often advice sites, with product reviews involving specific brands; consumers will also consult the views of friends and family, as well as brand sites. If you think just time and research will get someone to purchase your product, though, you may be wrong!

Where it continues…

Next, these customers may visit a big name, bricks-and-mortar retail store, which they use in factoring price, quality and image of a brand or product. Many customers might also want to touch and feel the product, get a sense of its functionality in a real-world location before purchase. In a process referred to as “showrooming,” a customer will see the product, make a price comparison in store, and even consult a price comparison website. Only then, when completely satisfied and comfortable, will they make the purchase – sometimes weeks or months after that initial sense of need.

Using aggregated cell phone network data, GfK’s Mobile Insights sheds light on today’s complex purchase journeys. We use Mobile Insights for the big picture perspective on a customer segment as a whole, and add the detailed view using our smaller, deeper samples looking at on-device behavior. We follow real customer purchase journeys – building up a detailed understanding of shopper behavior, showing where people go, which websites they visit along the way, what they purchase, and where they ultimately choose to buy (which isn’t always online).

What many advertisers may not realize is that this entire journey takes place with a cell phone in hand. While many companies have used this knowledge to their advantage by issuing time, temperature and weather sensitive notices for flash sales at local store locations, mobile platforms still have much more to offer. Even though 64% of smartphone owners recall seeing advertisements on their mobile device, mobile advertising only accounts for 14% of digital ad spend- and an even smaller cut of the total pie. Marketers should see those figures as a call to shift their strategies and scoop up an abundant and captive audience. Being able to follow customers through their entire mobile purchase journeys is key to making that possibility a reality.