Who Is the Real Mobile-Only Audience? - eMarketer
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Who Is the Real Mobile-Only Audience?

Introducing the "selective mobile-only" user

November 15, 2013 | Mobile

Mobile has attracted a sizeable bulk of US consumers, but the vast majority use desktop and laptop computers along with mobile devices, according to a new eMarketer report, “Redefining ‘Mobile-Only’ Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop.”

Truly mobile-only consumers are relatively rare, and their lack of use of other devices is probably a question of economics, not a matter of choice. Mobile offers a cheap way to go online.

US Internet Users, by Platform, Feb-July 2013 (% of total)

But a different sort of mobile-only consumer is coming into focus. This subset uses mobile exclusively, or almost exclusively, for certain activities and channels, such as social, search or music. Within these channels, these “selective mobile-only” users, or SMOs, are essentially unreachable for marketers that aren’t specifically targeting mobile.

In effect, certain desktop sites have a 20% to 30% blind spot—an important consideration in the planning, execution and measurement phases of campaigns.

“Research tells us there really are people who only shop on mobile,” said Johnna Marcus, director of mobile and digital store marketing at Sephora. “We have data showing 31% of those with mobile internet are using it exclusively—it’s their only connection. We’re not just thinking of mobile as an augment, but really building things out to be mobile-first and be mobile-primary.”

In fact, across the top 20 sites, ranked by unique visitors, the SMO numbers far exceeded 6%—the percentage of internet users who only use mobile devices ever to go online, according to comScore data mentioned earlier.

Top 20 Web Properties Among US Desktop/Mobile Internet Users, Ranked by Unique Visitors, Feb 2013 (millions)

Other data tells a similar story of double-digit mobile-only use for selective sites or services. Forrester Research figures from April 2013 suggested nearly 25% of social media users exclusively logged on to such platforms via mobile devices.


The full report, “Redefining &lsdquo;Mobile-Only’ Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop,” also answers these key questions:

  • Who are the “selective mobile-only” users, or SMOs?
  • What sectors and sites have more SMO users?
  • How can marketers reach SMOs in their mobile channels?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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