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Q&A with University of Michigan Professor on Mobile Location Behaviors

August 13, 2013

The University of Michigan is known for many things.  Great Medical, Engineering, Public Policy and Business schools.  Great college sports.  The Consumer Satisfaction Index.  A good protest or two.  Mobile Marketing is not on the list, though.  But it should be.

Quietly over the past seven years, Sy Banerjee, Asst Professor, Mobile Interactive Marketing, University of Michigan – Flint, has been researching exact details on how the location freedom of mobile is affecting consumer behavior – and what that means for marketers.  This is not theoretical discussions that ad agency execs have on a conference panel.  This is what is really happening.  He has been analyzing little known public data and been using it to create insights into the behaviors of the mobile population.   The downside is that it will inform you on just how woefully behind your marketing plan is behind your consumer.  But you can’t ignore it because your competition is paying attention.   The brands that truly win their consumer’s hearts and minds will use this to increase the sophistication of their marketing strategy.

“…psychology has shown that personality is locational. You could be targeting the wrong traits depending on where they are.”

Put on your thinking cap – class is in.  And you have some homework to do.  Read Sy’s educational Q&A, then learn more about the new purchase funnel at the MobiU2013 Seminar: Mobile Path to Purchase, October 24th at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.

Sy Banejee Asst. Professor, University of Michigan, Flint

HMC: How does location impact behavior?
: Location is more than just a place – it’s the complete environment. The buildings, ceilings, music, aroma, crowd, interior decor, etc. Traditionally, the shopper used to be perceived as a concrete individual with enduring traits and transitive preferences. But psychology research has shown that personality is situational. You could be addressing different traits or information processing strategies in the same person depending on where they are. The same ad to the same person may have different reactions based on the location and time they are in.
HMC: What’s an example?
SY: The height of the ceiling could change someone’s behavior.  If they are indoor, high ceiling or outdoor.
HMC: How does that work?
SY: It’s quite complicated, so I’ll cover it in my presentation.
HMC: Our audience will definitely want to learn more about that!
SY: Before wireless internet, access to electronic media was at home or work in fixed environments. There are so many aspects of our personality that are unleashed in between home and work, i.e. when we are mobile at a train station or grocery store. And that affects how we process the ads we see.

HMC: Through your research, what are some of the most surprising mobile behaviors you’ve seen?
: When I started collecting data in this area 6-7 years back, there was skepticism both from fellow researchers and the subjects I studied. When I asked them how they would react if a company/ marketer knew where they were, they were shocked. These subjects were not older, technology fearing individuals, in fact they were undergraduate college students that avidly used mobile technologies. But that chasm in information sharing has drastically bridged in the last seven years. Some of these mobile information sharing behaviors are desirable but some are significantly risky.
SY: There’s a website “”
HMC: [laugh] I haven’t heard of it.
SY: They take info from other sites that indicate when you’re not home. People don’t realize that when they say they’re in location A they’re not in location B [home]. Within a friends network it’s ok, but when it’s public, say on twitter, it becomes risky.
HMC: For example?
SY: When I’m pulling Foursquare information, it’s public.
HMC: But not to a specific person, right?
SY: If they are logged into Twitter through Foursquare, you can track both the location and the person in a public forum.

HMC:  That is risky!  Let’s shift gears.  Mobile shopping is now more than 10% of eCommerce – who is driving this increase?
: Age is definitely a factor. Younger people are more into it. Some studies show a gender bias towards single and male, some don’t. Interestingly, the innovators among mobile shoppers are not just rich folks. If you see shopping via mobile phones, a lot of younger, low income individuals shop from it. Many of them cannot afford laptops. But iPads are more expensive, so those who shop from tablets tend to be of higher income. There’s some cultural bias too. We see minorities driving the purchases from mobile phones. There are cultural differences in polychronicity and how time is viewed.
HMC: What is polychronicity?
SY: It means you can split up task into finite pieces that can be done in multiple ways and times.
HMC: Is that a fancy way of saying multi-tasking?
SY: [laugh] Essentially.

Learn more about the new purchase funnel at the MobiU2013 Seminar: Mobile Path to Purchase, October 24th at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota

HMC:  You talk about the segmentation of the mobile shopper – without giving it away what insights did you find?
: I found four dimensions that impact your receptivity and four segments of mobile shoppers. I also found two aspects of location – whether its private or public, and whether the activity in it is related to work or leisure – that allow us to accept or reject location based advertising. So I have four scenarios based on those aspects. One is private and at leisure – such as the person at home. Second is private and at work – say at the office. Third is in public and at work, like the library. And the fourth is public and leisure, typically shopping. People are different in these different scenarios when it comes to receptivity to mobile ads, particularly location based advertising.

HMC:  What type of mobile devices do you have?
: I’m not very advanced, I have a iPhone3S and sometimes an iPad.
HMC:  3S?!
SY:  The reason is that I was developing an app at the time.
HMC:  Think you’ll upgrade in September?
SY:  Yes, I’m probably due for an upgrade soon.

HMC: Any last thoughts?
: There’s m [mobile] Commerce and u [ubiquitous] Commerce. We shop from multiple locations on multiple devices. Those who shop from multiple locations, but using the same phone/device are technically mobile, but not ubiquitous. Those who shop from multiple locations and also use multiple devices – such as TV + iPad + phone – can be called “ubiquitous”.
HMC: How big is this “uCommerce?”
SY: It’s difficult to measure but it’s definitely growing. You essentially see an ad on one device, search on another, maybe purchase on another. Or even make purchases at different times from different devices. We cannot measure this phenomenon due to the attribution chasm – the inability to attribute offline sales/sales on one device to online search or ad exposure on a different device. But we’re getting there.
HMC: That’s similar to the difficulty of measuring effectiveness of Out-of-Home advertising.
SY: Yes, it would have to be like the Tesco virtual store before we could measure each part’s role in uCommerce.

Learn more about the new purchase funnel at the MobiU2013 Seminar: Mobile Path to Purchase, October 24th at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota

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