Syagnik (“Sy”) Banerjee, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Marketing
(Article by Kim Laux)
Last year, the United Nations released a startling statistic: Six of the world’s seven billion people have a mobile phone; only 4.5 billion have access to a toilet.
Mobile phones are everywhere (including bathrooms). Their potential to conveniently connect you to anyone, anywhere at anytime have helped them become the fastest adopted consumer technology in the history of the world. So, why is 80 percent of mobile usage still taking place within the home?
This is the question that inspired further research by Syagnik (“Sy”) Banerjee, Ph.D., mobile and interactive marketing professor at UM-Flint, and Ruby Roy Dholakia, Ph.D., director of the Research Institute for Telecommunications and Information Marketing. Their findings were released in the article “Situated or Ubiquitous? A Segmentation of Mobile E-Shoppers,” published in the International Journal of Mobile Communications (Vol. 11, No. 5, 2013).
“The numbers from A.C. Neilsen’s research data show that despite the recent explosion of mobile devices and shopping via mobile devices, more than 80 percent of mobile usage was from inside the home,” said Banerjee. “This indicated a paradox—mobile users seemed to predominantly use the device from fixed, situated locations.
“As I thought more about his, it made me recall experiences I had as marketing manager for a vehicle tracking company that ran along the highways of rural Rajasthan, India. GPS, our strongest competitor, suffered a market entry setback because truck drivers refused to allow these seamless, hassle-free tracking devices to transmit data without their control. It drove home a realization that despite appreciating the benefits of a connected world, individuals could potentially feel discomfort in wireless environments if they felt the devices were transmitting personal information without their consent.
“Taxi drivers in Boston and Washington DC raised some of the same concerns about being tracked by their navigation devices. It’s a complex issue because navigation is a two-way process, involving exchange of information. One cannot provide directions without knowing the exact location of the vehicle. When a window opens, it provides an opportunity for flow both ways—and that causes hesitation and skepticism.”
For this study, Banerjee conducted several focus groups where participants were asked to explain the circumstances under which they searched for information using their mobile phones. He then exposed them to location-based advertisements to draw out their reactions. Based on their responses, he drafted several layers of survey and developed a 13-item scale to identify how situated or ubiquitous (freely moving) a consumer was. The scale measured how physical location, timing, people in the area, and a sense of physical and virtual control impacted mobile behavior when shopping online.
“The study led to several findings,” said Banerjee. “Some customers had no problem searching for information on the go, but they would not make purchases or transactions because of concerns they had about network security. Those who felt more comfortable shopping anytime/anywhere were also more open to receiving ads via mobile devices than situated users. We also found that demographic characteristics like marital status, gender and ethnicity made a lot of difference on how situated or ubiquitous the user was likely to be. Marketers could use these insights to segment and target their mobile customers and campaigns accordingly.”