Mobile Usage

3 Ways to Understand Australian Smartphone Usage

Australia now ranks third globally for digital adoption, with smartphones being the number one digital device. But smartphone usage habits can be complex, and without clear insights it can be tricky to understand how different people use different devices. We’ve compiled some of the most recent data that’s come to light about Australian smartphone users to help marketers better understand their customers. Armed with this knowledge we can develop more creative campaigns that target customers more intelligently. Here we look at how context, demographics and device choice impact on usage behaviour and how Australian consumers are engaging with the shopping and the purchase journey on their mobile devices.

1. Mobile Usage By Context

Mobile is quickly overtaking fixed internet, and while consumers are switching to mobile first, the latest Google study finds that they’re not afraid to move between different devices to satisfy their diverse and varied digital needs. Google’s previous study introduced the importance of consumer micro-moments, and this latest update sheds further light on context as consumers engage with devices at different moments in time. Australian consumers lean towards different devices to meet different needs, and marketers should become familiar with these usage patterns in order to keep up with their customers.

What’s the reason for the digital device roulette? Why are consumers choosing to trade devices depending on what they’re viewing? Google’s  Micro-Moments survey provides specific insights on the context of decisions made on mobile devices:

  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their phones to influence in-store purchase decisions.
  • 61% of internet users (and over 80% of millennials) start their online shopping on one device, but finish on a different one.
  • 62% of smartphone users are more likely to solve an unexpected problem right away because they have a smartphone.
  • 90% of mobile users have used their phone to make progress towards a long-term goal or multi-step process while out and about.
  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone for ideas while doing a task.

It seems users often shift to smartphones based on what they need to find out. According to the Google study, throughout just one day, reasons shift from ‘I want to know,’ ‘I need to know,’ ‘I want to go,’ ‘I want to buy,’ and ‘I want to do’ moments. It’s up to brands to capitalise on these chances to interact by thinking in terms of these contextual moments as well. By mapping out moments or contexts that are most common, marketers will understand customer needs in the moment, and be able to steer them through the most appropriate customer journey. Brands that turn micro-moments into great mobile experiences are more likely to benefit from cross-device usage, whereas less mobile-oriented brands risk losing sales and customers. Brands that concentrate on creating the right content for the context will help customers feel like the experience is geared to them.

2. Mobile Usage By Age

For nearly all age groups, smartphones are the preferred device for Australians. With the exception being the ‘over 65’ crowd, we’re increasingly reliant on smartphones for a large part of our overall online engagement. Aside from identifying differences in mobile usage based on context, Bronto Software/Ipsos revealed that age is an indicator of device preferences and usage patterns:

  • Younger users are more likely to use laptops, while older Aussies tend to gravitate toward desktops.
  • 54% of Australians own tablets, which are well-distributed across most age groups, but they are most popular with 35 to 44 year-olds.
  • Consumers own 3 devices on average, of the five options given in the survey (desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, wearable).
  • Men own more devices than women.
  • Wearables were most popular among 35 to 44 year-olds, at a 13% penetration.

Combining context with insights regarding age allows marketers to create more unique, personalised interactions. By pinpointing device preferences among these different age groups, brands can realign their campaign budgets to the wants of their actual consumers, such as the demographic for wearables. Knowing this represents an older age group, marketers can target wearable users more appropriately and serve up ads that better fit their needs, compared to the needs of a college student, for example. Brands that recognize pain-points for different age groups can also capitalise on the interactions by removing those roadblocks, and opting for cleaner, more responsive mobile content. Example: While older smartphone users request fonts and text sizing to be easily readable, younger demographics may crave more interactive & visual content.

3. Mobile Usage By Operating System

Australian smartphone usage can also be measured by operating system, as recent shifts in OS preferences have increased the divide between Android users and the rest of the market. According to the Kantar WorldPanel, Android holds the controlling operating system, with Apple’s iOS being the second-most popular. Australia’s smartphone OS sales market share as of May 2016 was as follows:


Australian Smartphone Market Share Comparison January 2015 vs. May 2016

Operating System May 2015 May 2016
Android 56.2% 64.4%
Blackberry 1% .3%
IOS 35.9% 32.5%
Windows 6.3% 2.6%
Others .6% .3%


Compared to January of 2015, the main shift has been an increase in Android users, and decrease in Windows and iOS users. These OS preferences dictate to some extent how brands should invest in native mobile experiences when developing apps for target device groups.

4. Mobile Shopping Behaviours

A Bronto Software & Ipsos study found that that 88% of Australians own smartphones, and 30% use them to shop online, so it’s safe to say marketers should focus on mobile shopping. However, the biggest takeaway from this report is that although mobile has the highest penetration of any other device in Australia, it still isn’t the primary device used for online shopping. This should serve as a huge flag for brands that their mobile shopping experiences simply aren’t up to scratch. The Ipsos report found that younger generations are more likely to shop using a smartphone than those aged over 45, with more than half of 18-34 year old shopping via smartphone compared to just under a quarter of 45-54 year-olds. Brands that facilitate great experiences across different devices will attract these early adopters and be well placed to capitalise on what is certainly the usage trend moving forwards.

Responsive design and applying mobile first principles are essential when developing digital and cross-screen shopping experiences. Features as simple as being able to return to a mobile cart when on a desktop computer could have a demonstrative impact. Brands who fail to adopt mobile-first principles, and merely hope that consumers will follow them to the desktop when mobile doesn’t work out, will see negative impacts to ROI. Being comfortable with different devices mean smartphone users will regularly switch between screens to complete purchases. Marketers should view mobile shopping as both a transactional and a discovery tool, and be aware of the need to create cross-device shopping experiences if they want to earn more Australian online purchases, both online and on mobile. Brands must seek insights into how their customers expect to transition between devices and be able to design experiences that enable and support this. By optimising the customer journey, these companies will better interact and engage with what millennials like about each different device. Marketers who organise their customer journey by context, and smooth out the transition between devices, will create a seamless experience that retains customers and maximises conversions.


Combined, these studies prove that while mobile is integral to Aussies, usage is fragmented. It’s important for brands to use the data to understand context, and learn who their customers are, so that they can make insightful campaign decisions that affect the bottom line. Marketers have a difficult task at hand to deliver on mobile, while simultaneously linking experiences between other digital and offline channels. While some brands are just beginning to kickstart a mobile-first approach, those who have already done so will have an immense advantage with the emergence of new technologies like mobile virtual reality and wearables. As consumers increasingly expect to be able to move between devices to fulfill their needs in different contexts, they’ll grow less tolerant of brands that can’t provide an uninterrupted experience.
Brands should prioritise seamlessness across all channels, and utilise cross-device conversion data to understand what isn’t working. Collecting and understanding the right data will help mean marketers can better measure consumer journeys that start on one device and end with another. Having this knowledge will make it possible to implement smart cross-device tactics that pull users through the customer journey and end in conversions and return on investment.

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