The Truth about Toggling: A New Path to Purchase for the Mobile Category

The path to purchase for mobile devices and carriers is entering its next era. As many mobile markets reach saturation, people are buying new devices out of desire rather than necessity. As the latest devices are announced throughout the year, many people are considering their options on an ongoing basis.

To help manufacturers and carriers better connect with the people who matter to them, Facebook recently partnered with GfK to explore how the path to purchase has changed and what those shifts mean for the mobile category.

We interviewed a nationally representative sample of adult mobile/smartphone owners across France, Germany, Poland, Turkey and the UK, with additional digital tracking in the UK. For consistency, we used representative data from the UK to illustrate our findings. We also provided links to country-specific overviews at the end of this post.

Key discoveries across all 5 markets are below.

Desire is driving new device purchases

Research reveals that the majority of new phone purchases in the 5 countries studied are triggered more by desire than by necessity. For example, in the UK, 56% of new mobile devices are purchased because people feel their old phone is dated or they want a new device.1 One in 4 may also be prompted to buy because of an expiring contract, but only 35% of new phone purchases are actually triggered by current device being broken.1

The consideration cycle is ongoing

We also found that most people across all 5 countries are consuming a light but steady diet of mobile and telco content well in advance of their next phone purchase. In the UK, 55% of people who plan to change phones within a year regularly or occasionally read news, articles or blogs about phones and mobile plans.2

The combination of people being both in constant research mode and ready to switch devices “because they want to” means that personally relevant, well-targeted content has the potential to trigger someone to switch devices at any time. In the new path to purchase, many people are effectively “in market” all the time. To be considered when it matters and accelerate purchase before a competitor wins the switch, mobile manufacturers and carriers must also be “always on.”

Consideration ongoing during path to purchase

People buying the most expensive devices are even more deeply engaged in the ongoing consideration cycle. In the UK, higher spenders consult 24% more sources than those buying devices that are less expensive. This creates additional opportunities for brands to connect with the people most interested in high-end items.

Mobile brands must adapt to mobile consumer behavior

Media fragmentation has made being “always on” in front of customers and prospects more challenging than it used to be.

Recalibrating the marketing mix may help brands more closely align with customer behavior. For example, 92% of people in the UK are on mobile, and mobile is where people in the UK spend 50% of their time online.3 Yet mobile spend makes up only 6% of telco marketing budgets.3 Mobile is the device that is always in-hand (or in-pocket or on-desk). By leveraging the channel they created, mobile manufacturers and operators can achieve “always on” presence.

People are toggling across tasks

As people multitask and multiscreen, “toggling” is so commonplace that it has become second nature. Picture this: someone jumps from one mobile app to another, checking email quickly and responding to a text, then jumping just as quickly back to the original app or opening up a new one. At first glance, this scene presents a challenge, suggesting that toggling fragments people’s attention. But with the right targeting, brands can find new ways to deliver relevant, thumb-stopping messaging to people wherever they toggle.

Facebook is woven throughout the journey

Many people return to Facebook as they switch between, and even in the middle of, digital activities. Toggling has made Facebook a consistent thread throughout not only the day but also the entire path to purchase.

Facebook present path to purchase

It is also important to consider people’s mindsets. People typically visit telco and manufacturers’ sites to accomplish tasks that might be associated with a more “functional” state of mind—for example, conducting device research, checking balances or paying bills. But people go to Facebook to connect and engage in discovery. Many show up with a mind that is open to relevant and interesting news from friends and brands alike.

What it means for marketers

Be present throughout the journey: The path to purchase is an ongoing cycle. To ensure an “always on” presence, brands can seek out the places their audiences are really spending time. By integrating their message throughout the consideration cycle, brands will be present to accelerate purchase among an audience that is ready to buy when the moment feels right.

Adapt to mobile: Why should brands try to create new behaviors when they can leverage existing ones? Mobile manufacturers and operators have an opportunity to leverage the very channel they created, using mobile to stay close to the people who matter to them. The consistent presence of Facebook throughout the path to purchase may offer brands additional opportunities to reach audiences—both broad and targeted—in an engaging environment of discovery.

Connect to people with relevant creative: Expanding onto new platforms may also mean expanding the way brands approach creative opportunities. Brands may be able to differentiate themselves from the pack by shifting the focus of messaging from product features to the lifestyle values of the people they want to connect with. By doing this in a way that is personalized (for example, with targeted messaging) and visually appealing (for example, with photos and video), brands can give people an ongoing reason to stay committed.

For additional information, download country-specific overviews below.

Source: “Path to Purchase for Tech and Telcos” by GfK (study commissioned by Facebook) Oct 2014. Nationally representative group of adult mobile phone/smartphone owners in DE, FR, PL, TK, UK.
Note 1. Based on people who have purchased a mobile/smartphone in the past 6 months.
Note 2. Based on people planning to upgrade/buy a new phone in the next 12 months.
Note 3. “Mobile Churn Trends and Customer Retention Strategies” by GSMA Intelligence Aug 2014.