The 2014 Canadian Smartphone Market


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The mobile world is evolving at a remarkable rate, and as a result it is important for advertisers to position themselves ahead of what is sure to become a media landscape dominated by the mobile user. The new whitepaper by Catalyst & groupM Next lends insight into the way the new mobile consumers is behaving in the Canadian market, and provides recommendations for a shift towards a more contextual type of thinking for advertisers.

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The 2014 Canadian Smartphone Market

  1. 1. Acting on the Evolution of the Canadian Smartphone User March 2014 Authors:                 Prabhakar Sundaram, Analytics Manager, GroupM Next                 Jesse Wolfersberger, Director, Consumer Insights, GroupM Next                 Matthew Jenkins, Marketing Coordinator, Catalyst Canada
  2. 2. The mobile revolution is complete – 55% of Canadians now own a smartphone according to new research from Catalyst, conducted by GroupM Next. For brands and marketers, the story of smartphone growth is no longer about market penetration; it is about where and how consumers use them. A survey of 1,100 smartphone owners in Canada, both English- and French-speaking, reveals the maturation of smartphone behaviour in terms of the types of tasks done in certain locations and their biggest frustrations when using them. Smartphones are used for all types of activities ranging from low-involvement tasks, such as getting a quick look at the weather or the score of a sports game, to using Facebook or Twitter, to more involved activities such as long-form content consumption, online transactions or informative searches for high-involvement purchases. What we’ve seen as a result of this research is the emergence of three key browsing locations where Canadians engage in these different tasks, all holding equally important brand implications. This research focuses on the three overarching locations – “On the Go,” “At Home” and “At Work” – and the specific activities aligning with these situations. “Half of Canadian smartphone owners have owned one for at least two years, while 14% have owned one for more than five years” The Three Smartphone Usage Locations Smartphone Activities by Location On the Go • Social Media • Weather • Sports Scores • Long-Form Content Consumption • Online Purchasing • Information Search of High Consideration Purchases • Email • Stock Quotes • Banking At Home At Work © Catalyst 2014 2Source: Catalyst Mobile Research
  3. 3. Perhaps the most complicated task in this list is finding a new restaurant to try. Customers now have the freedom to search for and retrieve information on the go. This makes it more important than ever for a marketer to have Web-based assets that are easily found through a variety of different channels. This goes beyond the restaurant industry alone to any brand wanting to be in front of customers when they are looking for related information. If finding a restaurant is one of the top on-the-go activities, certainly other task-oriented behaviours could be as well – such as finding a store or a product. Our research shows 70% of smartphone users have used their smartphone to search for product-related information while in a store. The significance of this is evidenced in research conducted by Catalyst and GroupM Next in 2013 (Retail Showrooming in Canada) that shows Canadian shoppers would leave the store if the in-store price was 10% higher than the price online. Perhaps less expected is how often these consumers search for product information in other places— 65% while standing in line, 65% while eating and 60% during commute. These are not simply generic searches either; these are intent-driven, product-related searches happening in locations most brands may not target. Even beyond targeting these areas, brands need to understand that as technology advances, consumers will continue to demand more timely and relevant communication. When asked about the top frustrations users have with on-the-go smartphone experiences, 26% indicated load times, 23% mentioned bad mobile websites and 21% indicated too much typing. This combines to 70% of the frustration for people browsing on the go. Because finding a new restaurant to try is the only commerce- related task among the top five on-the-go activities, the results also reveal that the restaurant industry is the first to solve these common frustrations and provide a positive, consistent user experience. People who have owned a smartphone for two or more years are 50% more likely to be frustrated by a bad mobile website than people who have owned a smartphone for less than two years. Smartphone veterans have different expectations about what a mobile experience should be, and are increasingly frustrated when they have a bad one. This sentiment is both a view of current smartphone veterans surveyed for this research and a glimpse into the future of new smartphone users. Today’s smartphone rookies will be smartphone veterans in less than two years; therefore, the importance of a seamless experience will be a market-wide expectation in short order. Top Smartphone Activities While on the Go % of consumers most often using a smartphone to accomplish these activities Of those who use their smartphone, % that do it on the go Get directions Find a new restaurant to try Check the weather Use Twitter Check score of a sports game 53% 36% 55% 41% 39%81% 60% 40% 40% 36% 65% have used their smartphones to search for product-related information while standing in a line, 65% while eating and 60% during their commute On-the-go activities are done while traveling, shopping, eating, or any other period without access to home or work computers. © Catalyst 2014 3Source: Catalyst Mobile Research
  4. 4. % of consumers most often using a smartphone to accomplish these activities Look for a new car Book a flight Pay a bill Purchase products Shop for products 79% 74% 73% 67% 63% 6% 5% 10% 6% 8% Top Smartphone Activities While at Home At home, most people use laptops or tablets to accomplish particular tasks, as less than 10% of smartphone owners use smartphones as their primary Internet access device while at home. However, those who do use a smartphone at home are doing complex, time-consuming activities, such as shopping for a new car or booking a flight. As the table above indicates, when high-involvement activities are being done on a smartphone, they are being done at home. Taking a closer look at these activities, one can conclude these are mostly high-involvement tasks requiring a fairly significant time investment and search for content. For a marketer, there are huge opportunities to reach this audience, particularly through content development and optimization of existing Web properties. Sixty percent of consumers say the first thing they do when hearing about a new brand is conduct a search. Considering time at home is most likely to coincide with watching television, it is vital to have mobile search support during television flights and major events. Unfortunately for brands, this research shows that searching on a smartphone is not easy. Thirty-three percent of respondents are not satisfied with searches for product prices, and among other unsatisfactory experiences: 30% are not satisfied with searches for product reviews, 29% for local business information and 25% for product features. In comparison, only 9% of customers say searching for news and weather information is unsatisfying. Overall, consumers are about twice as unhappy with brand queries as general information queries. On the other hand, 58% of consumers say they recognize search ads they see on their smartphone, and of those consumers, 50% say a search ad has helped them find the information they were looking for. The combination of frustrating search experiences and helpful search ads should be a call to arms for search marketers to maximize clarity and convenience in their search efforts, and help consumers find what they are looking for. 58% of consumers say they recognize search ads they see on their smartphone, and of those consumers, 50% say a search ad has helped them find the information they were looking for. © Catalyst 2014 4Source: Catalyst Mobile Research Of those who use their smartphone, % that do it while at home
  5. 5. Top Smartphone Activities While at Work % of consumers most often using a smartphone to accomplish these activities Of those who use their smartphone, % that do it at work For many, smartphones are a key secondary device used at work to check on important day-to-day updates. Of the activities smartphones are used for at work, reading emails and checking stock quotes occupy the top positions, with a combined one-fifth of the audience using their smartphones for these activities. It is also important to look at the way people use their smartphones to access this type of information. Unlike at-home activities for which people mostly use a mobile Web browser, at-work activities tend to steer through applications. Sixty-nine percent of smartphone users utilize an app rather than a Web browser to read emails, 58% use an app to check stock quotes, 70% use apps to check bank accounts and 86% use the app for Facebook. However, reading news is almost equally split between app and Web. The latter may be a result of the variety of ways people can consume news and the lack of apps for some news outlets. Checking real estate prices can be a daily activity when searching for a new home, which makes it an ideal use for an app. Consider Zillow, the U.S.-based online real estate company which has thrived on placing an emphasis on its mobile apps. Home owners spent more than 5 billion minutes on Zillow’s apps and viewed homes more than 2.5 billion times – up 150% from 2012. Zillow’s mobile traffic is twice the size of Trulia and four times the size of due to its investment in mobile apps, and its stock was up nearly 200% in 2013 alone. As a marketer, it is important to understand the user experience driving the decision between using an app versus a Web browser. For example, looking at the finance-specific activity of checking bank accounts, 49% of respondents say they use an app because of the ease of navigation compared to 29% who consider mobile Web browsers to be easy to navigate. Understanding smartphone usage factors becomes important for marketers because it provides the brand more opportunities and ways to engage with their audience. Also, looking specifically at apps, it becomes important to understand the factors persuading people to download or uninstall an app. “Being featured in the app store” and “word-of-mouth” are the top factors persuading smartphone users to download an app. Looking at the reason behind an app being uninstalled, half of smartphone users indicate the primary reason being they don’t actually use the app anymore, followed by 18% indicating poor functionality. “Being featured in the app store” and “Word-of-mouth” are the top factors persuading smartphone users to download an app. Source: Catalyst Mobile Research 5 © Catalyst 2014 Read emails Check stock quotes Write emails Read the news Check bank accounts 30% 22% 16% 22% 23%21% 21% 15% 14% 12%
  6. 6. Successfully Connecting through the Smartphone Experience Smartphone usage has revolutionized how people interact with brands and businesses. While what people do on a smartphone and where they do it varies, for a marketer, it all drills down to the mobile usage experience of a consumer. When examining where people use their smartphones, it becomes clear that location greatly influences the type of task the consumers complete. On-the-go smartphone activities need to be quick and frictionless; while activities at home are slower, more time-consuming tasks requiring in-depth, easily- consumable content. At-work smartphone activities are habitual and app-related. Knowing these tendencies can help brands tailor mobile experiences to the consumer. Brands and marketers cannot rest easy until they validate their presence in all forms of mobile media where consumers look for information, and finding that information becomes as easy as finding tomorrow’s weather forecast. Contact: Kalin Kotzev Digital Technologies Manager 416-342-6698 With offices in Toronto and Montreal, Catalyst Canada ( is the largest and most versatile provider of search marketing services in Canada, providing paid and organic search, digital asset optimization, social media optimization and community management, and content strategy. Catalyst, a pioneer in developing strategic digital marketing services since 1998, is renowned for search marketing excellence in servicing fortune 1000 brands. With Canadian Headquarters in Toronto and offices in Montreal, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Seattle, our clients span B2B and B2C verticals, and cover multiple industries. At Catalyst, we pride ourselves on being THE Search Innovator of the industry. Our service offerings include: search engine optimization (SEO), paid search marketing, Social SEO, content strategy, digital asset optimization, mobile search, e-retail optimization, local search optimization, global search, competitive reporting, and more. For more information about Catalyst, please visit the company’s website at