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Today’s smartphone is just the beginning…

In March, we conducted a survey of n=1000 New Zealand smartphone users focusing on the role of mobile in the customer journey of two categories – travel and retail.

What we discovered:

·     4 in 10 NZers regularly use their mobile to purchase products/services

·     16-34yr olds are 3 x more likely to purchase products/services on their mobile

·     Non-Europeans are 2 x more likely to do this

WePay spawning a new category of mobile micro-payments

New migrants to NZ, particularly from China, are already well-versed in user-friendly mobile payment services i.e. WePay and Alipay. As highlighted in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, these services are digitizing micro-payments where paying for an apple with your phone at a farmer’s market is the norm.

As part of our research into the NZ smartphone landscape, we conducted a number of in-home interviews with a spectrum of local users. Crystal, a Chinese migrant who has been in NZ for six years now, spoke of how her Mum now uses her smartphone to pay for small items. It still surprises her how ‘backward’ NZ is with our mobile services.

“Even my mother buys fruit with her phone. On WeChat they have a scan or barcode. All the street stalls like the morning markets – they all have their own code. You can just scan them and the money just goes to their account so there is no cash” Crystal, 27yrs

Bridging online and offline to create a seamless customer journey

When measuring the role of mobile in the retail customer journey, we discovered that whilst the smartphone plays a significant role at the start of the purchase funnel, bricks and mortar continue to shine at the moment of truth – the transaction. Anecdotally from other projects I have worked on, we know this is true as customers playback to us time and time again – ‘I like to touch, feel, check the quality, play’. It is a highly tactile category and for this reason, mobile plays a slightly different role than in travel.

It is all about inspiration and using the functional benefits of the device to help consumers whilst in-store and create a memorable shopping experience. With Apple rumoured to be taking a step closer to bringing its augmented reality vision to life with multiple depth sensing cameras in the iPhone 8.

But mobile is already being used in store today. In July, we ran a poll of n=500 NZ smartphone users and asked...when shopping in a retail outlet and/or supermarket, how often do you check your phone? One-third check their phone either all of the time or most of the time. Only 3% claimed they never checked their phone whilst in store.

So, what are they doing?  

This behaviour is reinforced by one of our immersion interviewees – Rhea, a 19yr old University student who said:

“I love Instagram. I follow a lot of fashion store pages like Forever New’s instagram page. If I’m shopping in a store and I wanted to show my friend or Mum what I’m trying on, I would take a pic and send it to them and they would say buy it or not. You snap it…snap and send.” Rhea, 19yrs          

We need to raise the bar on NZ mobile experiences

Mobile is still not a default option for many. Why is that?

We asked participants why they did not use their smartphone more often to purchase products/services and this is what they said. For 6 in 10 – it is a screen issue – whether the screen is too small or they prefer a bigger screen.

Over half claim difficulties with navigating the mobile site – this included content/website taking too long to read, payment check out hard to use on phone or too many steps to purchase. Website difficulties and a non-responsive website were cited as equally frustrating preventing many from making their final purchase on their phone.

But one online retail store getting it right, as mentioned in Mary Meeker’s report, is Allbirds. This NZ success story offers an innovative product and makes selection simple with less choice. Less is more in this case. One of our user interviews – Joel, a 24yr old warehouse operator, reinforces this message when speaking about his experience on an Australia mobile retail site - Culture Kings.

“I have bought some clothes on Culture Kings. Culture Kings’ website is quite good on the phone. I have bought hats off there on my phone last year. They have simplified the site with the layout of the website and there is not so many dropdown boxes. It’s just a page of pictures of the product. They don’t have a massive range of stuff so it’s more mobile friendly.” Joel, 24yrs

 5 things to consider about mobile in the customer journey

1.   Time of day and mindset influences how receptive users are to your mobile content. Be available and always on.

2.   Mobile is a personal channel in a sea of broadcast… get to know your user. Avoid mass-messaging.

3.   Smartphone ownership is ubiquitous - do not waste this opportunity to connect with ALL New Zealanders. The digital divide is no longer.

4.   Mobile now underpins the whole customer journey. Don’t make it a last minute ‘add on’

5.   Today’s smartphone is just the beginning...

Storyteller or story interpreter?

The work conversation often goes like this… ‘So, what do you do?’ ‘I work in market research.’ ‘Oh, so you’re the person that rings me up during dinner to ask what I think of John Key?’ ‘No, not exactly…’ It is so much more than this.

 

Brené Brown, a now celebrity researcher courtesy of Oprah, recalls in a Ted Talk how she repositioned her role as a qualitative researcher, by calling herself a ‘storyteller’. This resonated strongly with me as I thought about all the stories I have heard over the years from so many different types of people and from all walks of life.

It is these human connections that makes our work so special and what many do not get to see. My husband always tells people I come back from an in home interview buzzing. It’s because I have had the privilege to enter a person’s natural environment where they are in control and most relaxed, observe how they live, meet their family, children and pets, explore what makes them tick and sometimes even be invited to stay for dinner!

One of my favourite Instagram feeds at the moment is Humans of NY. The authors collect human stories from everyday New Yorkers and present these vignettes of everyday life in a highly compelling way.

This got me thinking – maybe I’m not a storyteller after all, but a story interpreter.Because I can’t simply tell the stories I hear…I have to retell them with commercial relevance.

That is the difference between an ethnographer or cultural anthropologist. Whilst we as market researchers also observe and listen, we do so through the lens of commercial context. How does this person’s life and experiences impact the brand I am representing? What can I learn that will make a difference to how they might communicate to that person, deliver a product/service or motivate them to purchase?