What do Canadians use their smartphones for? Lots of stuff – but they’d like to do more

Peter Sheldon, a Vancouver native, and the Senior Analyst at Forrester Research focusing on eCommerce, mobile commerce and multichannel technology came out with a great report that shows how consumers use smartphones and how mobile marketers must respond.

Respondents were asked, “Which of the following are you most interested in doing on your smartphone?” (U.S. numbers)

  • 28% want to get directions
  • 12% want to look up product information
  • 12% want to compare prices at different retailers with barcode scanning apps or using search
  • 11% want to receive coupons you could use while shopping in a store
  • 10% want to search for business information in a browser

Less popular answers included “looking up the nearest shop to see if they have the product I want to buy,” “receiving exclusive discounts from retailers,” “scanning QR Codes,” and “purchasing items.”

Carman Allison, the Director of Consumer Insights at Nielsen reports on some Canadian statistics

“Smartphone ownership in Canada stood at 18 percent in April 2010. But with 29 percent of survey respondents indicating that they plan on buying a smartphone (in the next twelve months), almost half of the population will have the devices in the near term. Already consumers are using smartphones as part of their shopping routine: mobile coupons are increasingly popular and offer the deals consumers are looking for without the hassle of clipping a paper coupon.

“Smartphone loyalty cards eliminate the need to carry a plastic membership card and help consumers track their spending. Other apps enable shoppers to plan their grocery lists, view nutritional information or schedule delivery. But don’t expect smartphones to replace credit or cards just yet: just 15 percent of Canadians said they would be willing to use their phones to make payments while 61 percent said they would not (although amongst younger consumers, about a quarter said that they would be willing to do so)”.

The latter are numbers from the United States where mobile app companies like ShopKick and ShopSavvy have made it easier for consumers to participate in these common smartphone behaviours.

ShopSavvy can be downloaded in Canada, but you’ll hard pressed to find a product barcode that works here north of the border according to several tweets, despite the 22 million barcodes ShopSavvy has stored in their database.

QR Codes, if marketers knew how to correctly optimize them using mobile smartsites and clipboards, would in many instances solve what consumers want in looking up product information, the distribution of coupons via mobile, purchasing items through m-commerce and receiving invitations for sweepstakes/contests. Retailers such as Macy’s and Best Buy have been educating people in the United States how to scan digital barcodes.

ShopKick is a great success story, and were featured on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine in March, but there are no examples of the app being used in Canadian retail. CEO Cyriac Roeding and team have managed to sign up 1500 retail locations in 39 states across 160 malls. The app directly competes with Checkpoints, which reward consumers as soon as they walk into the store, replacing the need to check-in.

These are just some examples of how Canadian retailers are slow to effectively utilizing the smartphone and tablet revolutions to their advantage in other ways than just mobile apps, which according to Polar Mobile at Canada 3.0 last week, there over 530,000 across all platforms.

Although Canadians are very loyal to their Blackberries, the new OS 5 and 6 allow for much easier use of applications. It was said at Mobile Monday Toronto by Research In Motion’s Tyler Lessard in early March that Blackberry users with those operating systems were much more responsive to the downloading and use of apps.

However, according to the Forrester study, as of Q3 2010, 61% of developers were using native code for each supported device- they were building them one at a time rather than using mobile middleware or mobile web frameworks that would allow for hybrid cross-platform functionality.

Blackberry apps especially are built last as Android and Apple are open-development platforms and unless mobile apps are popular enough on the latter two platforms, most developers don’t bother with Blackberry.

After all, RIM’s Jim Balsillie on November 19, 2010 famously said: “You don’t need an app for the web”.

Regardless, whether you’re a fan of the mobile web or “apps”, they are both here to stay for the time being.

Balsillie may have said that, but RIM still went ahead into a partnership with Google for Android Apps on their newly-released QNX operating system with the PlayBook.

QNX will also be run on smartphones as well.

It’s just a question of whether or not smartphones will feature Android apps in the future.

I would guess yes, given the fact that Blackberry apps just don’t run as well as Android and Apple’s.

By 2012, Blackberry should be caught up functionality wise, and we’ll see some more of these research numbers come to light in Canada, with two main apps for developers to build, Android and Apple.

We might then also see a greater number of interested Canadians using their smartphone for more things.