This instalment of Joe Barber’s column first appeared in the April 2012 issue of Marketing magazine.

More than half the emails I receive each month are questions regarding statistics and mobile usage, along with campaign ideas and insights on how to execute properly. The questions usually relate to a specific campaign and what could or should be expected along with some debate over relevance of certain numbers.

Before presenting a range of the latest information on consumer mobile behaviour, it’s important to look carefully at any survey or report you rely on to understand how the survey or analytics were gathered. I raise this obvious issue only because of a recent email I received asking me for comment on a report that showed some mobile web figures that were hard to accept. After digging a little into the basis of the report, it became clear that the prompt to complete a survey was driven from a banner ad located exclusively on a mobile apps download site – a very self-selecting and somewhat biased audience that simply could not be used as a reflection on the broader community. While most sets of data I find aren’t as obviously skewed as that above, they all do contain some factors that need caution. As I’ve said many times, it’s necessary to appreciate the geographic differences and telco structures. Australia, for example, is one of the few countries where all telcos offer the iPhone; in most countries, it is a single telco only.


Again this is not a new topic, but after seeing four recent campaigns from mainstream brands where I was on their target list, it is amazing that agencies ignore the mobile facet: the emails were unreadable and when I did manage to click a link I went through to an indecipherable website. What a waste of a customer touch point!

There are a couple of important definitions worth explaining. The first is that ‘mobile’ no longer refers to just mobile. Whenever I talk mobile I really mean the ‘expanding web’, which encompasses predominantly mobiles and tablets. In 2011, however, web browser-based in-store information kiosks grew significantly and internetenabled televisions with Bluetooth keyboards became mainstream and began appearing in all major electrical retailers.

In the immediate future, the focus on mobile and tablet needs to be driving the creative approach. More than 50% of ‘on the move’ connected access is now from tablets. According to Return Path Inc, in 2010 64% of emails were read via mobiles directly or via a web interface. In 2012, I have seen a range of statistics, suffice to say if it’s a social, private consumer driven promotion and not corporate, then plan entirely for mobiles and tablets as the destination reading device.

Email campaigns need optimised messages for the new emerging dominant environments. Good email marketing tools should be able to provide you with all the analytics needed to understand the audience and the devices being used.

The most important stat released recently shows that over 25% of mobile web users in the US are mobile only, no desktop. In Asia, that number is closer to 40% and in Australia I would expect the figure to be between 20 and 25%. It’s becoming increasingly popular, especially in the under 30s audience, that their only personally owned internet access device is their phone or tablet.


Both messaging formats, SMS and MMS, are still the most successful techniques for generating responses from consumers and driving them to a mobile site or some other engagement process.

Over eight trillion text messages were sent in 2011. SMS still far exceeds email in terms of response rates and is still the preferred consumer method of receiving promotional vouchers and location-based coupons. Generally, SMS receives a 1.8 to 2.5 times greater click-through rate than email, with MMS reaching as high as 3.4 times the response rate compared with email.

SMS and MMS are both very powerful CRM (customer relationship management) tools for organisations. But think carefully when using a provider to send the messages.

Recently I took my car for a service to a different dealer than usual and I received the typical confirmation SMS and a reminder SMS. Both messages, however, came from the same number for both dealers. So for the supplier of messaging that was fine; however, the dealer’s brand was lost and confused and mixed with competitors. Then I received one promotional message from another brand, which forgot to put its details or brand in the message and shortly afterwards sent another message explaining who it was from.

With messaging costs dropping significantly over the last two years, and margins very tight for wholesalers and gateway operators, there has been significant consolidation of the market, leading to lower service quality and more mistakes.

Some important messaging tips:

  • Use the FROM tag on messages to identify the brand. Don’t just have the message from a standard mobile number (also known as a long code). It’s a great chance to reinforce the brand and is visible in message lists all the time,
  • use shortened URLS for links. I am still bewildered by the number of messages I receive with 100-plus characters and more links creating a very unreadable message and using up valuable characters,
  • all messaging providers should support multipart or extended SMS allowing you to send upwards of five joined individual SMS messages that are reconstructed on the phone. If the message is complex, invest the extra costs to explain properly and avoid any confusion, which will simply lead to DELETE.
  • mix regular customer communications with MMS. MMS still has strong consumer response rates and enables the inclusion of over 500 characters with images and logos. MMS can create a far more engaging experience, but with the extra cost is worth mixing on a 3:1 or 4:1 basis, and
  • observe the Spam Act. Ensure you respect the privacy of consumers and don’t abuse their inbox.

Campaign pages

Think about the connected user for a moment. A connected user is one that has a propensity to go online. In essence, it’s ignoring the basic mobile users and even many of the feature phone users. According to recent research, over 34% of all mobile users have gone online from their phone and do so at least once a week.

Depending on which research you prefer to use, over 85% of people between 18 and 26 go online regularly from mobiles, with that number being as high as 91% in Asia. In Australia, I would suspect that we would be exceeding the US. Interestingly, the age group from 40 to 50 is just as likely to go online as people aged 30 to 40. It shows how mobile devices and web access is now almost as ubiquitous across all age segments.

When creating a mobile landing page or campaign site, think about some very important guidelines:

  • Think about hosting and performance issues, especially where sudden concurrent hits may occur. Mobile has far more challenges in performance due to restricted bandwidth, so use a strong well-tested platform. There are many site creation tools, but that’s only 20% of the task; it must perform to extreme burst levels and give an immediate experience without delay,
  • keep the site simple. Don’t try and replicate the main website content buried around the core campaign message,
  • leverage the fact that the consumer is looking at your site only and is focused on just a single task by nature of the mobile environment. Get to the point quickly and seek engagement early,
  • be wary of any forms required to enter competitions. Make sure they are short and simple. In reality, all you need is an email or mobile number and any steps related to the actual competition (questions). Is it really necessary to ask for first name and surname? Nice to have – maybe – although most campaigns I’ve seen fail to follow up anyway,
  • utilise the GPS of devices and automatically track their location without asking for the consumer to enter their suburb or area. With a good hosting platform, you should be able to see all these location stats mapped,
  • it’s vital that linked pages from email, SMS or MMS load quickly. Any delays simply increase the chance the consumer will exit. Keep the first page especially very simpe with brand logo, title and a link to the next page, and
  • use and leverage location-based data – to digress slightly, you’ll see from the statistics below that 34% of consumers use their mobiles in-store to comparison shop – use location and coupons to offer special on the spot pricing to retain the business.

NFC (near field communications) and other proximity marketing strategies aren’t expected to hit mainstream until well into 2013 with the peak growth of mobile penetration, online usage and messaging expected towards the end of 2012.

As always, many of these statistics vary greatly between research firms and are highly impacted by the specific target group and the method of survey. Careful analysis of any insights should be done if being used to guide or structure a mobile campaign execution. Of course, I am always happy to review, comment or help with any questions on any specific issues or ponderings.



The following are extracted from the JiWire Insights Report for the last quarter 2011 and from numerous other resources. While the majority are drawn from the US or APAC (Asia- Pacific), I have only reflected statistics I believe also have relevance in the Australian market.

  1. 84% of the connected audience preferred free ad supported content as opposed to paying
  2. 80% of consumers preferred locally relevant advertising
  3. where ads are locally based, over 75% have clicked through or taken some action
  4. 95% of people that clicked an ad never returned to the originating site
  5. 34% of consumers comparison shop while in-store, with 15% then purchasing on their mobile or some other device and 70% of these finding product cheaper elsewhere
  6. 18% of consumers have scanned QR codes, with over 68% knowing what they are and how they should use them
  7. 33% of consumers have redeemed or taken action on mobile coupons within last 90 days (of the late 2011 survey)
  8. over 20% of the connected users now use a tablet, with 30% using both
  9. iPhones and Androids are now equal among connected users
  10. a Penn University (University of Pennsylvania) study found that 20% of all Tweets contain brand related messages, with action mobile Twitter users clicking on ads 20% of the time, as opposed to non-Twitter users at 9%
  11. Carnegie Mellon University claimed that users rated only 36% of all Tweets worth reading, with brand Tweets rating half of this
  12. 25% of connected consumers claim to be looking for a new car within 12 months, with 27% of them relying on mobile for research, specs and finding a dealer
  13. 71% of consumers claim to have seen a TV ad, online or press ad and then gone online to research via their mobile
  14. 45% of consumers claim they have used their mobile to respond to a TV advert while their laptop or desktop is available in the same room
  15. the most used mobile apps are social networking, games, weather, news aggregation (such as Flipboard) and mapping
  16. 25% of downloaded mobile apps are never used after first use
  17. paying by mobile is the fastest growing mobile segment
  18. over 300,000 mobile apps have been developed, with 10.9 billion downloads and demand expected to peak in 2013
  19. brand specific apps are declining in consumer favour and download
  20. 45% of connected consumers have tried mobile payments, with most claiming they would continue to use
  21. 52% of consumers clicking on a mobile advert containing a click to call link clicked through to the store
  22. entertainment-based advertising receives double the click-through rate on mobile websites, but is only 20% more effective in messaging
  23. 15% of all enterprise brand oriented apps have been discontinued for failure to attract downloads
  24. over 75% of connected users watch streaming video
  25. 2011 saw a 300% growth in barcode scanning compared to 2010, and a 1000% increase over 2009
  26. magazines’ use of mobile action codes (2D barcodes, QR codes, Microsoft Tags) exploded in 2011, rising 439%
  27. 66% of men aged over 30 spend more than one hour a day playing games on their mobile phone, compared to 50% of males aged 12 to 29, according to a January 2012 MocoSpace survey
  28. one-third of US consumers prefer to receive offers via their mobile device as a text message, ahead of mobile web, email (21%), mobile application (11%) and voicemail (8%), according to a survey released in January 2012 by the UK Direct Marketing Association
  29. 80% of mobile shoppers abandon poor mobile sites before completing purchase or research
  30. 88% of the Limelight Networks survey respondents said that the time it takes for the site to load or appear on the screen is either an important or extremely important feature of their mobile shopping experience
  31. 95% of retailers expressed concern over the growing trend of in-store comparison shopping, with over 80% having no idea how to combat it and only 15% identifying strategies of integrating in-store point of sale and materials to drive local-based specials and coupons to combat the trend, and
  32. mobile web traffic to retail sites is expected to grow over 400% in the next 18 months and overall by 200%, highlighting site performance and optimisation as 10 times more important than the site design tool itself.


Joe Barber
BY Joe Barber ON 18 April 2012
Joe Barber is a 25 year veteran of technology companies with the last five years focussed on mobile and retail. He is currently CEO and founder of with other notable start-ups under his belt being Third Screen Media, Sniip and Planet Internet. Joe has lived and worked in the US, Malaysia and parts of Europe and talks at numerous trade events worldwide.