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Ever wondered what people actually do on their smart phones other than talking, texting and accessing email? A study by BBDO and AOL just published in the Harvard Business Review’s January-February 2013 issue gives us a glimpse into that. The main lines:

46% of non-phone/text/email time was devoted to consuming non-news-related content. In contrast, only 19% was spent directly interacting with other people (presumably on social networks).

The share of time devoted to seeking information on a product or active shopping was only 12% (126 minutes per month on average). but note that light (or passive) discovery, which is the process of receiving recommendations from peers and being exposed to marketing content or word-of-mouth content occurs mostly in the 65% of non-phone/text/email time during which smart phone users are passively interacting with both content and their network, and during the phone/text/email time not included in this particular infographic.

What does that tell us?

1. Don’t let the 12% fool you. In the context of an infographic like this, it’s easy to forget that the act of shopping is merely the culmination of a process of discovery, desire and validation which ultimately ends in a transaction. If smart phones users only spent 6% of their time actively shopping wouldn’t suggest that they are buying less products. It might only mean that the mobile transaction and checkout process is more efficient. So don’t sweat the fact that shopping is dwarfed by “me time” and socializing.

2. Whatever smartphone users do the most indicates where mobile attention-share is. If you have a marketing message to share, adapt it to mobile users’ behaviors. (In other words, just be where they are.) If your ideal customers spend 46% of their time consuming cat videos and gossip columns, it may not be a bad idea to either shift some of your advertising dollars there or create/sponsor/share/syndicate that kind of content.

3. If the second most important block of time consumers spend on their smart phones is dedicated to socializing (on social media platforms), it isn’t a bad idea to run passive searches on certain keywords that are relevant to your business and/or industry. (Brand names, product names, product categories, etc.) How many people are talking about you and your products? How many people are talking about your competitors? How many people are looking to purchase a type of product that you sell in the next few hours? In the next few days? In the next few weeks? If you haven’t yet established this basic level of monitoring, you are handing over a significant portion of your sales to those competitors who are actively looking for opportunities to create connections with consumers via mobile channels and converting those connections into sales.

Note that the study metered the average “socializing” time block at 410 minutes per month, which at 13-14 minutes per day, only accounts for a portion of the time consumers spend interacting with others on social channels using all of their devices.  For reference, recent studies (like this one) put active Facebook usage in the US at about 26 minutes per day (8 hours per month). That doesn’t include time also spent interacting with other people via Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Quora and other platforms.

4. If you are a B2C business and you are not making it as easy as possible for consumers to discover your business through social channels and “me time” content channels, your marketing/business development strategy is not 2013-relevant.

5. If you are a B2C business and you are not making it as easy as possible for consumers to do business with you on their mobile devices, you are going to lose business. Hotels, airlines, restaurants, car rentals, retail, and so on. Your mobile commerce platform must be slick, intuitive, pain-free, and fast. We can’t really help you with that, but we can help you with the monitoring part (number 3).

Cheers,

The Tickr team

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