Last month, the Pew Research Center released findings from their latest Cell Internet Use study, stating that 55% of adult cell phone owners now go online using their phones. Of these mobile internet users, 31% say they mostly go online using their cell phones rather than traditional means, such as a laptop or desktop computer.
So, who are these "cell-mostly"s?
It should come as no surprise that they tend to be younger -- 45% of them are 18-29. This behavior is also overwhelmingly popular among Black and Latino mobile web users, with 51% and 42% respectively being "cell-mostly”s, compared to only 24% of the white US population.
While limited access to the internet may be a factor for some of these "cell-mostly”s, key factors influencing mobile internet use are actually convenience and accessibility. On average, approximately 70% of all “cell-mostly”s have access to broadband at home.
As marketers, why should we care?
At any given time, you can find a wealth of information about the rise/ future of/ impending takeover of mobile in the digital marketing landscape. Smartphone sales also outpaced PC sales last year, marking definitive growth in the mobile industry.
By looking at "cell-mostly"s and designing experiences catered to their digital behavior, we can accommodate for contexts that may be edge cases now, but will quickly become primary ways consumers interact with brands.
1. Create full-featured experiences
We've seen in user research at Huge, the digital agency I work for, that users are typically very task-oriented on their mobile devices. A mobile experience with limited features and functionality just won't cut it any more. With convenience being a top factor for “cell-mostly” users, it is important that they can perform your website's top tasks very well, whether it's tracking the status of an order or booking a flight.
2. Leverage the benefits of the mobile device
If a website can't accommodate key primary use cases, then make sure there's an app for that. The last thing a “cell-mostly” wants to do is resort to using his or her PC, and, realistically, he or she may not even have a personal computer to use as a back up. This creates lost opportunities to reach users and also creates opportunities for dissatisfaction.
Consider what advantages a native app may offer your brand given the benefits the smartphone has over a traditional PC. Is there a powerful way to utilize notifications and alerts for CRM while also providing value to the user? Can your brand make mundane tasks actually delightful (i.e. tracking a pizza with the Domino's app)? Or can the actual hardware facilitate a new competitive differentiator (i.e. Chase's mobile check deposit when it first launched)?
3. Accommodate for context
A few years ago, marketers thought about mobile behavior in just a few contexts: quick usage, app-driven, and on-the-go. However, the way people interact with their mobile devices has evolved to include more regular internet usage behaviors. It is now just as common for a cell-mostly to browse the internet for long periods of time on the couch, as it is for he or she to be using it on-the-go.
Knowing the context in which a user is encountering your brand via mobile is a key opportunity to provide a more valuable experience. For example, in the instance of a retail store, if a user is browsing the store's website on a mobile phone at home, the digital experience should be tailored to drive the user to a brick and mortar location, and should be designed to help the user make the most out of that in-store visit. Once the user is actually in-store, the experience should be location-aware and shift functionality to assist the user in finding what he or she needs, as well as surface any relevant offers to enhance the overall shopping experience. Ideally, the digital product would remember the user’s activity from previous visits and surface relevant information during subsequent visits.
What are the most crucial scenarios in which users interact with your brand via mobile? Consider the moments along the user journey which mobile could provide the most value to both your brand and your users, and tailor your mobile experience at these various points.
While "cell-mostly"s only currently make up 17% of US cell phone owners, given the rapidly changing digital environment, they help us understand how others will behave in the not-so-distant future. Even if these "cell-mostly"s are not your brand's current target audience, it's important to keep them in mind, as they will shape the behavior of others.