Tracking consumers' evolving mobile behaviour

Tracking consumers' evolving mobile behaviour

The smartphone is at the centre of modern life, with a growing ecosystem to support it.

Thais spend nearly 5 hours a day on their mobile phones.
Thais spend nearly 5 hours a day on their mobile phones.

With its versatile capabilities and 24/7 accessibility, it comes as no surprise the smartphone has become fully integrated into our everyday lives.

In most developed markets, about 90% of adults own a smartphone. This inspired Deloitte to conduct the world's largest multi-country annual survey of digital behaviour trends, the Global Mobile Consumer Survey. This article features some interesting key findings from the survey as well as comparisons to Thailand.

First, the last few years have seen the rapid rise of online banking, which can be easily and quickly accessed on smartphones. However, the survey finds that people aged 55 to 75 still prefer laptops for online banking.

One possible reason is older generations have lived through multiple banking migrations in their lives: from branches to ATMs, from telephone to online banking on a computer. Moving yet again to mobile banking might be one change too many, simply because learning behaviour can be frustrating and difficult to shift.

As a result, it is not surprising we often see older age groups continue to use the devices they are already familiar with. For this to change, mobile app developers -- not just for online banking but any app -- should consider simplifying the user experience for the elderly. This could involve two interface design options (simple and advanced), in-app support or bigger fonts.

Second, the smartphone is the first thing we touch in the morning and the last thing we see before bedtime -- after lights out for many people. Given this, people, especially young adults, have the tendency to overuse our phones.

The latest Digital 2020 report by We Are Social and Hootsuite found Thais spent an average of 4 hours and 57 minutes a day on their mobile phones -- second in the world after the Philippines.

Similarly, Deloitte's survey finds 48% of respondents admit they overuse their smartphones and only 6% use screen-time trackers. Interestingly, the proportion of self-declared overusers is exactly the same as in the preceding two years. This indicates people are fully aware of the excessive usage but do not feel the need to better control it.

Third, although smartphone unit sales are levelling off, the market for smartphone apps and accessories is growing apace. In October 2019, Apple reported a significant decline in iPhone unit sales. Nonetheless, the company's overall revenue hit an all-time high, supported by fast growth in wearables and accessories, such as AirPods, the HomePod smart speaker and the Apple Watch.

This shows many consumers are choosing to enhance the capabilities of existing smartphones through accessories tailored to their lifestyle, rather than splurging on a brand new phone every year.

Lastly, the volume and range of data being shared online has risen tremendously in most countries. This is because of the increasing number of connected devices an individual owns and the vast majority of third-party storage services, such as iCloud, OneDrive and Dropbox.

Add to this the proliferation of smart home devices, especially smart speakers, which are firmly entrenched in some developed countries and are now making their way into the developed world. In 2019, Statista reported there are 400,000 homes with smart home devices in Thailand.

These devices actively track things users do in their private time. Users should be carefully evaluating whether this information is kept safe. Across our survey base, only 9% of respondents state they always read the terms and conditions that come with mobile apps, meaning people do not seem to be concerned about how their personal information is being used.

In addition, 5G wireless networks are being developed at a fast pace. The advent of 5G could convince more consumers to upgrade their smartphones. Mobile-related businesses, smartphone apps and accessories will be also affected.

Clearly there is a tremendous opportunity for technology, telecommunications as well as other business sectors. Consumers are ready for better connectivity, smarter phones and other devices. One key takeaway for business is it must go beyond traditional strategies and start incorporating consumers' digital behaviours.

Businesses should start taking extra efforts in connecting with their customers via mobile devices, either through their mobile apps or ensuring mobile-friendly website design.

Parichart Jiravachara is a partner in Risk Advisory Services with Deloitte Thailand.

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