Mobile Consumer Behavior: Classes


This may be the longest post in the history of the Internet. It may break it. Ideally this would have been done the day I taught the class but this quarter was exceptionally busy. In fact, the last time I was that busy was during grad school while working a full time job. I was a human piñata this quarter. But below is an outline of what material I covered during the class.

Intro – The first day was spent reviewing where we would be going on our trip. I did this to get the team excited about going to Japan, while letting them know I would get to utilize their brains during the course.

Consumer Behavior – Most of the students in my class had not had a consumer behavior course. We talked about the influences – internal, situational, external, marketing – and the processes that impact their decisions. We also covered Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and McGuire’s Psychological motives. This was a metric ton of concepts in a short period of time and next time I will break this out into two classes. Also, I made sure to distinguish between consumer behavior and mobile consumer behavior, which is capability. Consumers have new found power, tens times the power they discovered they had using the internet. I define mobile consumer behavior with the following equation.

Psychology + Culture + Capability = Mobile Consumer Behavior.

The Post-PC era – We discussed the migration from PC devices to the smartphones and tablets. We focused on the physicality of the smart devices, which consumers and businesses are utilizing with more frequency. e.g. touchscreen, geolocation, micro-location, accelerometer, scanner, gyroscope, eyes (that translate), ears, mic magic, eye tracking. We also review the evolution of the internet of things. e.g. Smarty Ring, contact lenses by Novartis & Google, Apple Watch, smart socks, Google Glass and Skully.

Mobile Advertising – I had one of my students, Lou Fabian guest lecture. Lou has been in digital for years and is currently focused on digital/mobile advertising. It was great to have him review mobile display standards and I followed up with an article from HBR that reviewed what types of mobile ads work, which according to their study are not many. (I also followed up with this article in the next class that talks about their findings around mobile advertising.) It all depends on how you do things. That is what dictates the success of the effort.

We also talked about the future of advertising with native ads, remarketing, search (it lives in apps not Google), location-based advertisements and the success of xAd. This was a great class and I appreciated Lou sharing his expertise.


Mobile Web – We talked about responsive design, SEO and the differences between a mobile site and an mobile app. In general a site is focused on getting information and an app should be used to create a compelling experience for the consumer. We also talked about flat design being the norm in mobile.

Mobile Applications – For this class we reviewed a white paper by Photokast that outlines their process of creating an app. My favorite part of the white paper when they recommend developing apps focused on one of the 7 deadly sins.

  • Lust = Dating
  • Gluttony = Shopping
  • Greed = Budget/Financial
  • Sloth = Productivity
  • Wrath = Debate/Politics
  • Envy = Shopping
  • Pride = Personal Brand

From there we reviewed how companies monetize their applications.

  • Subscription/Fee
  • Ads
  • Freemium
    • Ads be gone!
    • Lite -> Pro
  • In-app purchases

Mobile Social – This class we reviewed Instagram, Highlight and Yik Yak. We took a look at the continued splintering of Facebook into it’s core features (Messenger, Slingshot, Paper, Mentions). We also discussed the rise of messaging apps such as Snapchat, WeChat, Line and WhatsApp. We finished up discussing selfies and their meaning. Yes. There is a meaning. I’m almost sure of it!

Data – I assigned the movie Her as homework. It was interesting to hear the student’s remarks in regards to the movie and we discussed how data played a role in Sam’s ability to adjust to the main characters needs. We then moved on and reviewed the first reading, The Age of Context. If you haven’t read this book you need to. It’s not a marketing book. It’s not a tech book. It’s a window into our potential future book. We finished up talking about privacy.

Messaging – Customer service, promotions, product extensions, location-based messages, targeted messages and informational methods are the categories of messaging that businesses use to communicate with their customers. These are of course dependent upon business model and overall goal and we covered the various mobile delivery methods including tweeting, email, Instagram Direct and Push notifications. We discussed how email had been ruined by spammy advertising and hopefully things like push notifications won’t head down the same path.

Mobile Commerce – We reviewed the types of mobile commerce including web, POS, mobile app-only, in-app and mobile specific rewards. Companies covered were PayPal, Square, Coin, Amazon Payments, Target’s Cartwheel and of course Apple Pay.

Note: At the end of each class we reviewed stats that shed some light on consumer behavior with respect the topic covered. One of my favorites items was a study that came out about how people using their phones on mass transit tended to buy more products. Behaviorally it seemed like they were escaping into the phone.

By Michael Myers