Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2: Mobile Consumer Behavior: Myths and Reality

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 2: Mobile Consumer Behavior: Myths and Reality

Article excerpt


Although it is a common assumption that mobile users are distracted and want to perform only simple tasks on the go, this is more myth than reality. Chapter 2 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 49, no. 6) "The Library Mobile Experience: Practices and User Expectations" discusses how mobile devices are frequently used at home and often for a longer period of time than just a few minutes in a hurry. More and more mobile users expect to do just about everything on mobile, and there is already a significant and growing number of cell-mostly Internet users. Mobile device users also overwhelmingly prefer native apps to web apps in their media consumption.


If people spend nearly 40 percent of their Internet time on mobile devices, what exactly do they do? According to a recent white paper by comScore (see figure 2.1), the top activities of smartphone users are text messaging (90.5 percent), taking photos (83.4 percent), using e-mail (77.8 percent), checking the weather (67.1 percent), accessing social networking sites (65.3 percent), searching (58.7 percent), playing games (52.9 percent), using maps (51.2 percent), accessing news (49.2 percent), and listening to music (48 percent). The top activities of tablet users, on the other hand, are searching (73.9 percent), using e-mail (73.6 percent), accessing social networking sites (67.5 percent), playing games (66.3 percent), checking the weather (64.6 percent), accessing news (58.8 percent), accessing photo- and video-sharing sites (51.5 percent), reading books (51.2 percent), watching video (50.9 percent), and accessing retail sites (49.8 percent). (1)

In the early times of the smartphone, it was commonly assumed that the device was used mostly to satisfy people's simple information needs on the go. Text messaging, taking a photo, checking e-mails, and looking up the weather forecast all fall under this category. But another common use case of the smartphone is distraction and killing time. Accessing social media, playing games, and listening to music can all be classified under this category as things that people do when they are bored or during their downtime.

The comScore white paper mentioned above reports that smartphone use and tablet use overlap in activities such as searching, using e-mail, accessing social networking sites, playing games, checking the weather, and accessing news. (2) But taking photos and checking maps are not among the top activities of tablet users (see figure 2.2). Even though many tablets come with a camera and offer a map feature, those activities are better performed with smartphones that users carry everywhere they go. On the other hand, tablet users appear to be taking advantage of the bigger screen to consume content and media such as books and videos. Shopping or browsing retail sites is also one of the top activities on the tablet. The comScore white paper observed that tablet users were significantly more likely than smartphone owners to engage in various shopping behaviors, such as researching product features and comparing prices, and also twice as likely to purchase items on their devices than smartphone owners. (3)

At first glance, this result may appear to indicate that the smartphone is used mostly when its owners are on the go for quick information lookup while the tablet is used for more in-depth or leisurely browsing when tablet users are stationary. This is true only up to a certain point, however. The relative strengths and weaknesses of the smartphone and the tablet will certainly make those who own both pick up the device that is better suited to an activity of their choice. If you have both a smartphone and a tablet and want to do some shopping, you are more likely to pick up your tablet than your smartphone.

But many people own only a smartphone and not a tablet. If the smartphone is the only mobile device they have and a need arises for a product search or media consumption, then even if the smartphone is not the device best suited for such activities, people will at least make an attempt to use their smartphones for these purposes. …

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