Do you know who your mobile customer is? - Retail Council of Canada
Canadian Retailer Magazine | Digital Retail & Technology

Do you know who your mobile customer is?

February 17, 2018

Canadian marketers grapple with the complexities of mobile attribution


CANADIANS love online shopping. According to a recent report by Bronto Software, 66 per cent of shoppers will shop online at least once a month, and 26 per cent shop online every week. But the way today’s consumers are shopping online is changing. The rapid increase in mobile and smartphone usage in Canada, like nearly every other developed country, has changed the way people consume media and consummate retail transactions.


MMK Marketing

While the day will undoubtedly come when shoppers complete purchases straight from their mobile devices, we’re not there yet. In 2016, Google said one in six shoppers start shopping on one device, but complete their purchase on another. As a result, advertisers on every digital platform have had to wrestle with issues of attribution as they continue to develop best practices for mobile engagement to better target devices and encourage mobile sales.

“The consumer journey was simpler before,” explains Monica Kwias, Founder and CEO of MMK Marketing. “It was cross channel, and shopping happened on your desktop or laptop, and for the most part in store. Now, we’re redefining the concept of attribution. It’s an uphill battle for marketers and retailers as it’s become a cross-device journey. Consumers start on one device and end on another. So, how do you know who your customers are?”



Percentage of shoppers who shop online at least once a month. 26 per cent shop online every week. Source: Bronto Software

1 in 6

The number of shoppers who start shopping on one device, but complete their purchase on another. Source: Google


Percentage of Canadian population who own a mobile phone. 91 per cent of adults aged 18 to 44 own smartphones.
Source: Bronto Software

2hrs 20min

The amount of time adults in Canada spend consuming media on their smartphones per day. Source: Bronto Software


The number of apps the average Canadian mobile user has on their monile phone. That number has decreased from 26 in 2014.
Source: Bronto Software

The mobile shift

Canada’s mobile economy is growing to keep pace with mobile device ownership, which now exceeds 75 per cent of the population. The majority of adult mobile phone users between ages 18 and 44 own smartphones, with penetration rates exceeding 91 per cent in 2016.

The amount of time adults in Canada spend with their smartphones per day has increased by over an hour in the last five years. Smartphone users spend 2 hours, 20 minutes daily consuming media on their device, more than any other single device or media except television.

Far from being an occasional touchpoint for internet access and communication on the go, smartphones have become the primary point of internet and email access for people everywhere. Canadians are more comfortable with their devices now and are using them for at-home activities that in the past would have been accomplished on a laptop or desktop computer. Indeed, studies have revealed that as at-home smartphone usage has risen, on-the-go activity usage has declined; which seems counter-intuitive as mobility is the primary reason why mobile technology has so thoroughly penetrated society.

At the same time, while mobile web usage is trending up, application usage is declining year over year. While in 2014 smartphone owners reported having an average of close to 26 apps on their phone, today that number is closer to a dozen. This suggests a general preference for using the browser over apps. Nevertheless, apps can still be a great way to provide value to consumers, but intense competition means that quality is more important than ever. Smartphone owners will not retain apps that take up space on their device without providing significant value in return.

Millennials are a segment of the population that is of particular interest to marketers. Interestingly, compared to other age groups, Millennials are more likely to use apps, have a greater number of apps on their phone, and are a driving force behind the trend toward athome smartphone usage.

Getting the strategy right

So, how do retailers interpret all of this data available to them and leverage it? There are a number of strategic takeaways that successful retailers should consider.

“With the increasing use of smartphones, mobile is no longer an option but a necessity. Retailers need to look at their online presence with the concept of ‘mobile first’. The user experience is vital; retailers need to optimize the online experience if they hope to close the deal,” explains Kwias. “There are loads of new professions coming along to assist this, and successful companies are investing in people to ensure the user experience is rewarding.”

of consumers who use their mobile device for online research say their device has become more important to their in-store experience

Source: Google

Jean-Francois Mercier, PR Manager for Frank and Oak, a clothing brand that began as an online-only entity before opening bricks-and-mortar stores, agrees that all forms of online content should be mobile-optimized. “The fact that people are more likely to be shopping on tablets and phones as opposed to computers and laptops makes a difference in how a retailer attracts and communicates with its customers,” he asserts. “To stay ahead of the curve, we have adopted a mobile first way of designing all of our communications to customers, from image weight to font type.”

Because there is greater competition than ever for a limited bandwidth when it comes to apps, retailers and marketers need to be more precise in targeting their audiences and ensure they provide a true value proposition to app users.

Brands that are interested in reaching Millennials should take into account the fact that these consumers are more active on mobile, including applications, than older segments. Brands whose target market includes young people should be particularly concerned with offering mobile solutions across both the browser and, if applicable, the app.

At the same time, mobile consumers of all ages are active at home as much as (or more than) they are on the go. Search and display advertising budgets may therefore yield better results on mobile during off-work hours versus during the day.

“The back-end must match the front-end experience. If you’re buying online today fast, free delivery is expected. That’s why Amazon Prime is killing it,” explains Kwias. “Another means of providing value is dynamic pricing. Hotels and airlines use it as a means of remaining competitive.”

Communicating the brand’s story

Wherever possible, it’s also extremely important to create a personalized shopping experience. The analogy of mail-delivered flyers is often cited. Most junk mail is thrown in the garbage, right? But what if the mail you received was catered specifically to your interests, lifestyle and shopping habits? That, obviously, would be considered a value proposition.

Frank and Oak built much of their success on delivering on this promise. “For our part, customization is one of the pillars of our brand and a milestone in developing relationships with our customers to provide an amazing shopping experience. Our goal is to offer all our members a premium shopping experience through our channels, whether it’s online or in store,” says Mercier.

Finally, to engage consumers during the online interaction, Kwias stresses that dynamic views are important. “Flip cards, sidebars to click, magazine-style page-flipping…all of these make for an interactive and engaging experience that appeals to consumers.”

Undoubtedly the day will arrive when shoppers complete the online purchase cycle—from browsing to research to price comparison and ultimately the sale— straight from their mobile devices. But we’re not there yet. Until then, in what is an increasingly connected world, rife with competition, retailers and marketers will have to focus on attracting and retaining customers by providing value and convenience in their online presence.