On Friday morning in Sydney I attended the launch of the fourth Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index report compiled as a collaborative project by AIMIA, m.Net Corporation and Ideal Interfaces in April 2008.

You can download and read the full report by clicking on the icon below.

Download

If you’re a marketer interested in mobile, then read on. In this post I’ll not only discuss some of the most interesting findings for marketers from this research, but I’ll also look at why aspects of the research were thoroughly disappointing from a marketer’s perspective.

Here’s a snapshot of the report’s most interesting findings:

  • Mobile phone ownership: 49% owned a mobile phone for over seven years.
  • Telecommunications provider: Optus (35%) and Telstra (25%) were in the same positions as the last survey and were still the dominant telecommunications providers with the participants of this survey. Vodafone (16%) just took the third spot back from 3 (15%).
  • Bill payment: Nearly 85% paid their own mobile phone bill.
  • Monthly spend: 70% spent <$60, 19% spent $21-$31, and 14% of respondents spent more than $100 per month on their mobile phone bill.
  • Most participants identified voice (84%) and SMS (84%) as key expenditure items on their monthly phone bill, followed by MMS (22%), buying content (9%), and email (7%).
  • 73% used their mobile phone mainly or exclusively for personal use.
  • Voice and SMS dominate as the key methods of communication across all groups.
  • SMS and MMS are most popular as a means of communicating with family and friends.
  • 83% of respondents stated that they used at least one of the listed online communities on their PC.
  • MMS (63%) and Bluetooth (61%) were the main methods of sharing content.
  • 36% of participants stated that they had purchased or subscribed to information services on their mobile phone, while 33% of respondents stated that they purchased mobile content in the last 12 months.
  • The top three content types purchased were games (43%), true tones (42%) and wallpapers (33%).
  • Although news (53%), weather (50%) and sport (34%) continue to dominate the information accessed over the last 12 months, there has been an increase in the percentage of respondents using almost all types of information. The greatest growth since Survey 3 has occurred in maps (347%), restaurant/café guides and reviews (174%), and TV listings (93%).
  • The most popular requests for future mobile information were maps (31%), news (29%) and weather content (28%).
  • Again, SMS (62%) was the most desired application for future use, email (49%) came second, and then MMS (42%).

As interesting as many of these individual statistics are, unfortunately the high expectations of finally having some solid Australian research into the way people use mobiles were not met. The labelling of the report as a ‘mobile phone lifestyle index’ would certainly have demanded a more thorough and comprehensive research task than was presented. Read on to find out some of the problems with the research as I see them.

Limited data set

Just over 2,000 people completed the survey, which was only available through a limited number of sites hosting banner ads offering a chance to win prizes around $200. So notwithstanding the competition junkies caring little about their answers, the fact that only a few sites hosted the banner ads limited the respondents to a very narrow group. As a marketer, it’s hard to feel that this limited data set is really representative of the true mobile audience out there.

Mobile not just for early adopters

In addition to the self selecting method of the survey, the questions didn’t recognise the ubiquity of the mobile and were more targeted towards an early adopter audience downloading and sharing content than the broader population using mobile for business processes and customer loyalty programs.

There are now more mobiles in Australia than people so to truly understand how mobiles integrate with our lifestyle the questions needed to be more experience driven than function and content related. It was commented on at the launch of the report that many people replied ‘no’ to the use of the Web on the mobile and yet had used their mobile to check weather reports or restaurant reviews.

What? No Crackberry?

Reinforcing the significant bias of survey respondents was the lack of Blackberry in the handset statistics and the significant percentage using instant messaging or social networking products. Even on the social networking front, the fact that Bebo (with 700,000 Australian members) didn’t rate a mention reflects some questionable reliability over the data as a basis for mapping Australia’s use of the mobile.

Are you experienced?

The report falls well short of providing any real statistics or information for advertisers and marketers, and as such should not be seen as a genuine ‘mobile lifestyle index.’ The lack of experiential style questions reaching beyond a PC connected user with time to surf and click through banner ads means the report is of limited value with a focus on use of content.

The fact that no real insights emerged with most results showing natural trends from last year’s report means we need to continue the quest for true Australian data on the use, frequency and reach of the mobile in this market.

The survey didn’t ask enough ‘lifestyle’ questions but instead focussed on content, and as a result will be a casual resource for Telco’s, content players and handset manufacturers.

But what about marketers? For them it doesn’t go anywhere near providing the strength of data needed to consider adding mobile seriously to a media plan or integrated campaign strategy beyond a ‘toe in the water’ approach. In fact, the obvious question of when they use their phone wasn’t even asked!

Mobile snacking vs web meals

The relatively low adoption of the Web on mobile was expressed as a factor of data cost by some at the launch. But I believe its more an issue of education and the need for quality content to be available.

The fact that MySpace is free to use (no data charges) didn’t seem to impact figures over those that had data charges. The mobile is a ‘snacking’ environment whereas the Web is a ‘meal’. People won’t surf the mobile but will more likely use targeted services, which are only recently starting to emerge.

So why should marketers care about this report?

Before using these stats for commercial decisions, just remember the sample space; a 70 percent female skew; predominantly prepaid; primary use being personal (complete omission of stats from business use, which is in the vicinity of 30 percent of all mobile use); and only PC online connected people with time to surf!

But despite all that, there are a few really interesting stats and comments that emerged from the report:

  • The continued adoption and wide use of MMS was encouraging. MMS provides marketers with strong brand reinforcement opportunities well over and above SMS, especially for traditional trade promotions and direct response initiatives. Even within this narrow audience, the use of MMS was increasing and well accepted.
  • Bluetooth has been gradually crippled on phones with many now only pairing with audio devices. The continued crippling of Bluetooth is seen as a blessing by some as it is a very intrusive technology, with many others adopting a conspiracy theory that the Telco’s are preventing this free media sharing tool from taking hold.
  • The modelling of the data and the analysis contained within the report was excellent and reflected good practices for research technicians. But ultimately, when the data source is poor the results and analysis is a waste.

So what does this report show for the mobile marketing segment? Unfortunately very little given the narrow self selecting segment of respondents. However, the wide spread use of MMS and the increasing desire for targeted information services both support the opportunity for creative, innovative, experiential and brand immersive campaigns. All thats needed is more true lifestyle-related research and case studies.


What do you think?

  • Were you at the launch of this report or have you read it? Is there much to be gleaned from the results for marketers looking to embrace mobile?
  • Were there any findings from the report that were especially surprising to you?
  • Do you have true lifestyle-related research or case studies? If so, get in touch with Scott here at marketingmag.com.au and help other marketers make sense of mobile.