Going Mobile

Everyone seems to agree that mobile is changing everything, but there is surprisingly little detailed study of emerging mobile behaviours. Our 2012 Going Mobile study fills in the gaps.

Going Mobile 2012 Report

The pace of adoption of mobile services has been the big story of the last few years. There are plenty of usage and market stats, but very little rich insight exploring the relationship between consumers and their devices.

Without this kind of insight mobile user experience design is guesswork.

Our research delivers insights which will underpin the design and development of successful mobile user experiences. It reveals a previously unexamined world of mobile behaviours and usage patterns.

What’s the opportunity?

What’s happening with mobile devices and mobile internet is every bit as profound as the web revolution of the late 1990s.

We see it as a ‘big bang’ event: mobile is creating new time and space for consumers. Time that was previously unproductive or inert is now filled with mobile interaction. What are users doing with this time? What brands are they engaging with in this new, very intimate, digital space? Which tools and services create value for them...and which are just creating noise?

Knowing the answers to these questions can be the difference between success and failure in the design of digital services.

Right now, the mobile marketplace is still forming. This represents a once-in-a-career opportunity for companies to design services to win share in this new digital environment and protect competitive advantage for years to come.

Most will miss this opportunity, but Going Mobile will provide some with the starting point for success in this new commercial landscape.

Key findings

Our four month study is a treasure trove of insights and data. We’ve picked out a few highlights to give you a glimpse of what we learned:

  • Unlike their other devices, consumers have a strong sense that their smartphone is ‘alive’ and an extension of their own body and personality. There is very real affection between some users and their phone.
  • Despite the phone being an essential everyday tool, there’s still a sense of excitement and expectation about how services will develop – and how these will change the user’s life still further.
  • For many, their phone and tablet offer a sense of freedom and renewed control over their life.
  • Consumers describe feeling closer to, and more personally involved with brands who create valued mobile apps and services.
  • Unused and unloved apps don’t routinely get deleted, but persist as a reminder of a failed promise by the brand that created them.
  • Consumers are already showing sophisticated shopping behaviours that weave usage of phones, tablets and desktop PCs into the purchase decision process. This includes the merging of the physical and digital worlds in the shopping journey.
  • There’s a security paradox: consumers have a heightened sense of security and privacy risks, but avoid using services which have complicated or difficult security processes.

Research method

The study combined both qualitative and quantitative components to develop a unique picture of the relationship between consumers and their mobile devices.

Our research comprised five phases, from developing the focus of the study right through to creating useful, useable insights for service and product design. The study commenced in November 2011 with fieldwork and analysis concluding in March 2012.

  • Industry research: before talking to consumers we conducted a series of interviews with companies thinking and designing in the mobile space. This helped us frame our enquiry and focus in on the knowledge gaps that needed investigation. Participants were from diverse industry sectors including gaming, retail, financial services and mobile networks.
  • Diary study: we recruited 40 consumers matched to Forrester’s ‘Super Connected’ demographic. All owned a smartphone, 12 also owned a tablet. We ran a two week diary initially focused on capturing natural usage, then moving towards specific tasks to look at comparative behaviour. All respondents attended at least one focus group; we also used a variety of other interviewing styles to deepen our contact with participants.
  • Analysis: At the end of the diary phase we began analysis to develop initial themes and hypotheses for personas, design principles and other insights frames.
  • Quant validation: we conducted a survey with 500 Super Connected consumers to validate and quantify our emerging picture of this group.
  • Insights and tools: the output of the study is a collection of insights from a very wide field of study. We also created some off-the-shelf tools to help bring the Going Mobile insight to bear in design projects.

Design Tools

Our vision for the research was to create a set of versatile insights tools that could be applied into our design work and client projects. We consciously avoided making the output ‘death by PowerPoint’, instead we packaged findings into the following tools:

  • Design principles: a set of general design principles for mobile which draw on the Going Mobile insights. These could be used off the shelf for initial design thinking, or developed to reflect a specific industry or customer context.
  • Personas: four distinct usage user personas emerged from the study. We’ve documented these as design personas which could be used off the shelf or developed for a specific context.
  • Sector-specific insights: Going Mobile is a general study of mobile behaviours but we framed the fieldwork to allow us to deep-dive into three industry sectors: financial services; retail; gaming.
  • App management guidelines: a set of guidelines for developing and managing apps over their product lifecycle.
  • Summary report: OK, we do have one PowerPoint presentation, but it’s only 30 minutes long and it’s a great place to start if you want an overview of what we learned during the study.

If you would like to hear more insights from Going Mobile, learn more about any of the design tools we’ve described or our research method, then get in touch.


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