The Blog

You Don't Even Know Me - Mobile Personas and Tomorrow's Web

Mobile is a great example of where consumers want it all. The growth of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices means everything, everywhere, anytime, but it also means when we can't have it all on demand, we really don't like it.

We're a fickle bunch, consumers, aren't we? It hardly seems five minutes ago that we were marvelling at 56k dialup internet connections and delighted by our WAP handsets, as we fought a serious addiction to Nokia Snake. Fast forward almost 20 years and we've become slightly greedy when it comes to technology and our expectations.

Mobile is a great example of where consumers want it all. The growth of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices means everything, everywhere, anytime, but it also means when we can't have it all on demand, we really don't like it. In a recent global survey of 5,000 consumers, 91% of consumers said they would turn to a rival brand if a mobile site was inadequate.

For the brands trying to use these channels to engage with customers, mobile is both a blessing and a curse. Firstly, it opens up the kind of direct communication marketers love, and gives them a line into potential customers around the clock. As recent Netbiscuits research showed us, we read our email and search the web as we commute, while we eat, before we sleep and even when we go to the bathroom.

The bad news for brands is we have become mobile chameleons, changing our colours and our devices as we move around. Strategy Analytics correctly forecast that an estimated 12 billion internet-connected devices would be used worldwide by the end of 2014 - that is an average of 1.7 devices for every person on the planet. For example, morning commuters with iPhones, using intermittent 3G while on the train to work, will make very different choices about the websites they access and the type of experience they want than when they are at home that evening on tablets with Wi-Fi access.

Similarly, I may quickly browse Internet banking on my smartphone during lunch, or search the Web for shopping suggestions, but I am unlikely to make a loan application or make a lengthy checkout purchase, because screen size and touchscreen are two immediate barriers to me completing the tasks thoroughly.

In its Connected Life Study in 2014, TNS research into mobile usage described how consumer behaviors fragment as digital ecosystems grow and they begin to make purchasing decisions using multiple devices and channels. Consumers select the device, channel or touchpoint that's right for them, based on the context they're in and their specific need. It's no surprise to learn that, globally, 41 percent of Internet users watching TV will also be doing something else at the same time.

It's in part fueled by an embarrassment of technological riches - smartphones, tablets, phablets, connected televisions and wearable devices - offering consumers a myriad of ways in which they can consume mobile data. The average Internet user has 3.6 different devices. With such an influx of technologies, each different in terms of its functionality, the ways in which visitors can engage and the contexts in which they experience the Web are seemingly boundless. This leads to multiple mobile mind-sets or personas, essentially online personalities which encapsulate how mobile users are interacting with the Web, and why they behave the way they do.

These mobile personas take into account the device being used, time of day, user's location, connection type, bandwidth capability and screen size, right through to the touch interface being used by that consumer. These complex personas offer us a way of trying to understand how such a demanding yet savvy audience thinks about their mobile experience.

So, who are your users? Caffeine commuters, a lunchtime browser, a sofa surfer, a night owl, maybe an evening networker? Chances are, they're possibly all of the above, or that your mobile mind-set or persona changes dramatically throughout the course of 24 hours. All this talk of dual personalities is enough to give you a complex, yet who we are and how we act based on our device and context is becoming increasingly important, especially for brands that, quite rightly, see mobile as a panacea for their problems. Analytics tools which can segment users into personas can help marketers understand this complex landscape and at the very least provide insights into who the visitors are and how they engage.

Understanding the complexity behind each persona offers an opportunity of striking a balance between delivering a personalized experience and understanding that individual user behaviors, wants and needs are not a fixed concept and can change dramatically depending on where I am, what I'm doing and the device I may be using. It's unlikely that users are going to demand less from their online experience any time soon, so it's up to marketers to get ahead of the game and know who they're really creating content for.

Learn more about Mobile Personas and Analytics at