Segmenting a Fragmented Mobile Market

May 9th, 2012 by

Earlier this year, I reviewed where the mobile industry stood in terms of fragmentation and reviewed how big of a problem it really was. Well, now that we’re a few months down the road, unfortunately not much has changed. And if anything, the problem is only being fueled with the unveiling of brand new Blackberry device and OS.

In February’s post, I came to an unfavorable conclusion in regards to a fragmentation magic bullet—i.e. that there isn’t one. But today, I wanted to take a different approach to finding a “solution” by looking at the problem from a different angle….

Could fragmentation be actually a good thing?

Turning fragmentation upside-down

I know what you’re thinking. With a seemingly infinite number of mobile device configurations in the market today, wreaking havoc on developers and marketers alike, how can fragmentation even begin to become a good thing?

Well, people choose different devices with different functionality for a reason. So, if you can find a way to use these dissimilarities (and sometimes similarities) to partition your audience and design a mobile offering for the various use-segments, then you’re ultimately able to provide a more relevant experience to the device user.

Taking advantage of the differences is where device fragmentation transforms into market segmentation and could spell greater success for your mobile initiatives.

iPhone users like Rice Krispies

Back in August 2011, the folks at Hunch released an infographic (see excerpt below) outlining the characteristics of the average iPhone user compared to the average Android user, with a little Blackberry and Windows statistics thrown in as well for good measure. Now whether or not you believe in the accuracy of such a study, the premise behind it fits in perfectly with segmenting your mobile site based on your audience’s device.

Factor in additional classification results looking at device users agelocation, spending and usage habits, and strategists can begin to piece together a decent picture of their target market and optimize their mobile experiences accordingly.

For example, if I saw that over 25% of my mobile traffic was coming from iPhones, not only would I make sure that my mobile experience worked flawlessly on a 3.5” retina display running Safari, but that said experience catered to the affluent, minimalist, Rice Krispy favoring user. In essence, if you know your iPhone users are more likely to make purchases from their device, as opposed to just browsing comparisons, then optimize your mobile purchase process on iPhone. If you know your Blackberry users (yes, there’s still 75M of them) just want quick data while taking a cab ride through the city, make it easy for them to access and read.

Couch and coffee commerce

It may seem like both smartphones and tablet devices are the same aside from screen size, but when it comes to usage patterns, the tablet owner is far different. With the vast majority of tablets connecting via WiFi, over 90% according to comScore, many users are stuck to a fixed point of access, be it their couch at home or the coffee shop down the street. As such, when compared to smartphones, tablets have become less of a mobile device for quick on-the-go web activity and more of a replacement for the longer internet sessions typical of desktops or laptops. Moreover, these longer, more relaxed sessions have ultimately led to an explosion in tablet-based shopping. 42% of tablet owners have made a purchase with their device and they are making purchases with 50% higher price tags than their smartphone counterparts.

A great example of segmented device optimization between smartphones and tablets can be made with trip planning. Knowing that a tablet user is likely to be sitting on their couch, researching and reading about trip options, it would make sense to focus a tablet user-experience on the pre-purchase decision and the purchase itself. Likewise, knowing that the smartphone user is likely already at the airport, hotel or restaurant, cater your smartphone experience to the information they’re going to need while traveling, like location and ticket information.

Embracing device diversity through data

In order to truly embrace device and user diversity, one should understand it. For this very reason, it is imperative that you build your mobile segmentation strategy not on guess work, but on solid usage data provided by one of the external sources quoted above and your own internal analytics platform. The more your segmentation strategy is data-driven, the more relevant and impactful your mobile presence will be.

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