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'Informed rejecters' shun mobile internet

by Louisa Thistlethwaite
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The most obvious audience for mobile internet devices is the hardest to win over  
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'Informed rejecters' shun mobile internet

Mobile internet has been the Next Big Thing for several years now. As phone manufacturers rush to build ever larger back catalogues of ‘apps’, technical experts predict that all our lives will be changed by the ability to download information on the move.

Unfortunately, this utopia painted in slightly pixilated colours by the apps developers fails to take account of what users of technology might actually want. Indeed, the most obvious audience for mobile devices appears to be the hardest to get through to.

The Rise of the App as a must-have marketing tool has been marked by the often diverging agendas of the software technicians on one hand, who are striving for ever more functionality, and marketeers on the other seeking to sell the killer micro-payments strategy to a global audience that will generate a significant volume of revenue for the P&L.

Around 24% of the UK adult population regularly use mobile internet and that is expected to double over the next four years. We recently completed a major piece of research into Internet on the Move and would concur with that consensus view – but we cannot see the figure growing significantly beyond that until organisations address a few fundamentals of consumer behaviour.

For exactly the same reason, we do not agree with those who predict that mobile internet will overtake fixed line. Our reasoning is based on two key findings from our study: namely that many of those most likely to understand the technological possibilities of mobile internet devices wilfully ignore them and the biggest users of apps cannot be considered loyal customers because they have very little idea why they use them.

The first group, who we have dubbed the Informed Rejecters, are fascinating, not least because they are a category that nobody realised existed.

At first glance Informed Rejecters would appear to be the ideal target market for mobile internet marketeers. They have a strong attachment to the internet and possess fully enabled smart phones. They are extremely knowledgeable about the latest gadgets and keep abreast of latest developments. They are intuitive, can navigate around websites with ease and 70% say they would have little difficulty using the internet on their mobile.

However, the reality is that they make very little use of the technology they know so well. When questioned, only 37% said mobile internet was useful to them.

We suspect the answer to this apparent dichotomy actually lies in the travel patterns of their everyday lives: they probably have a short commute or jobs that allow more freedom to work from home – where they use fixed line internet.

Either way, Informed Rejecters spend less time in “interspace” – the period of time it takes to get from one fixed point to another, such as home to an office or from one meeting to another in a different part of town. There is a correlation between the amount of time people spend in “interspace” and their enthusiasm for mobile internet.

Clearly, winning over this group in significant numbers would unlock a whole new market for mobile internet developers. Elsewhere on the spectrum of customer behaviour is another apparently dream demographic which poses problems of a very different sort.

Undefined Followers are the biggest group of users of mobile internet devices. They are more tentative about the technology than Informed Rejecters but enjoy using mobile devices and are excited about what they could bring to their lives. There is a sense of wonder about the computing power they hold in their hands but also uncertainty about how it is enhancing their lives.

Web literacy is modest, with 26% saying they would take a while to adjust when visiting a new website. That said, the net plays a key role in their lives and eight out of ten are prepared to learn by trial and error.

The issue is how committed Undefined Followers are to making mobile internet an integral part of their daily lives. As our tag suggests they are following a trend and being influenced by peer pressure and slick advertising.

However, with 5% of the UK population having tried mobile internet and subsequently given up, the challenge for developers and marketeers is to convince the Undefined Followers that it adds value to their lives.

In short, developers face a dilemma in trying to reach two demographics that are vital to growth of the whole market. At one end of the scale they must create highly sophisticated and distinctive devices that win over the non-plussed Informed Rejecters while, at the other, the Undefined Followers require applications that are pared back, incredibly simple to use, and – as importantly, in tune with the zeitgeist.

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