Profiling Your Best Mobile Customers

Nine months ago, I wondered if there was a life beyond the iPhone and beyond mobile applications. Recent data gathered by Forrester makes me think that such a life exists!

Bear with me one second. I am not denying the fact that iPhone owners are the heaviest users of mobile services. I am just saying that there are plenty of opportunities in the mobile space on other smartphone platforms and with selected audiences. Mobile is not just about applications or mobile Web sites. Even good old SMS can be powerful depending on the objectives you have set and the audiences you want to interact with.

What’s certain is that iPhone owners can only be a subset of your customer base. Only 2% of European mobile users report having an iPhone as their main mobile phone. Does that mean that there are no opportunities to target more mainstream audiences? Not at all.

A much larger near- and medium-term opportunity exists within other groups — particularly among young consumers, business users, and consumers with flat-rate data plans — as well as, increasingly, with new, competing smartphone platforms. In fact, if you’re not targeting them, you’re neglecting the majority of your customer base — including many consumers who are mobile-savvy but don’t have an iPhone.

Let’s make this even clearer. 96% of European 16- to 24-year-olds do not own an iPhone. Should you avoid engaging with youth via mobile because of that? I don’t think so.

It is key for companies defining new mobile products and services to better profile their own audiences. Identifying your own mobile-savvy users and how they behave on other channels and consume other media is a critical step in defining your portfolio of mobile products and services and in engaging with your customers via mobile devices.

Few companies that Forrester has interviewed know the mobile profile of their own customers. They assume that by building iPhone or Android applications, they will reach the most mobile-savvy users, but few of them really know who these customers are or with whom they can interact. Even more worrying, some of the large publishers and advertising networks that are supposed to offer brands the ability to reach the most advanced mobile audiences told us that they had very limited information about the profile of these customers.

Let’s take another example. Assuming that iPhone owners have the same profile across the different countries is a mistake. The distribution of iPhone owners across age groups is not uniform: The key segment in France is 16-to 24-year-olds, who represent 36% of France’s iPhone owners; in the UK, it’s 25- to 34-year-olds, who account for 40% of the UK’s iPhone owners; and it’s 35- to 44-year-olds in Germany, who make up 33% of Germany’s iPhone owners. In France, which has the highest adoption of iPhones in Europe, only 57% of the total iPhone installed base is male; in Germany, it’s 76%.

Forrester just published a new report on this topic: Profiling Your Best Mobile Customers. You can access it here.

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