Think smartphones are just about the bottom of the funnel? Think again.


The conventional thinking about smartphones is that they’re primarily used by consumers to help make purchase decisions “on the go” and near the “bottom of the funnel.” That vision of smartphone usage is quite narrow, however, and it’s contradicted by new survey data.

Findings from a survey of more than 1,100 US consumers conducted by Thrive Analytics and Burke reflect that people most often use mobile devices at home, to help make purchase decisions. The number who responded that way (56 percent) was 2X the number that most often used them “on the go” (28 percent).

However the “out of home” use cases combined would be roughly 44 percent.

Where do you most often use your mobile device to help you make purchase decisions?

Source: Burke-Thrive Analytics (2016), n=11,103

The other very interesting finding was that more people were seeking “general information” in their mobile product research process than more specific content like product reviews, pricing, inventory or store location information.

This suggests that a considerable amount of the mobile research being done is “top of the funnel” searching and browsing rather than more specific “How much does it cost?” and “Where can I buy it?” bottom-of-the-funnel type information typically associated with smartphone usage.

What types of information do you look for most often on your mobile device to help you make purchase decisions?

Source: Burke-Thrive Analytics (2016), n=11,103

Taken together, these two pieces of data present a picture of consumers using smartphones (and presumably tablets) throughout the purchase cycle but often starting general shopping-related research at home, without a specific product in mind. I’m drawing some inferences, but that’s what I take away.

This argues for a much more expansive view of mobile behavior by brands and marketers and in the kinds of messages, ads and experiences they deliver on these smaller-screen devices.

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