Google: Mobile Devices Influence Wireline Sales

Consumers preparing to buy or change a wireline service -- whether it's broadband, phone, cable TV, or streaming video -- are increasingly using mobile devices to do their shopping, according to research released today by Google. And people looking for customer service increasingly turn to video services such as YouTube Inc. for help.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) said the research is meant to help wireline service providers understand buying habits. However, the results clearly bolster online search and video services as primary means of reaching consumers -- a message that promotes what Google has to sell.

The good news for wireline service providers is that the market is growing. Google reports a 14 percent increase in people who plan to buy a service and a 48 percent increase among those planning not to cancel a service. (Those numbers weren't broken out by service type.) The biggest growth factor, Google said, is less service switching. Only 18 percent of those surveyed said they were switching service providers, versus 26 percent last year.

"Our research does not look specifically at why this is happening, but we do suspect that the positive economic outlook -- consumer confidence, lower unemployment -- has something to do with fewer people dropping providers just to save money," Kyle Keogh, industry director of technology for Google, told us in an email.

Still, 41 percent of those getting a new service cited price as a major factor, and 73 percent of all respondents called price an "extremely important" consideration; 68 percent said that about reliability.

Here are some other findings.

  • Buyers do their research; "54% of purchasers begin research 2+ weeks prior to purchasing; two-thirds of purchasers visit 5+ provider sites while carrying out research," Google said.
  • Almost 60 percent of those who make a purchase "discover brands via mobile devices," either because they are using their mobile device to conduct research or they see an ad while on a smartphone or tablet. "If people are searching for information on their mobile devices, it's important that your marketing campaigns are running on those devices," Keogh said.
  • Google says video is playing a bigger role; YouTube customer service queries grew 72 percent. "We don't know what percentage of consumers are going to YouTube for customer service info, but we are seeing a growing demand to solve customer service issues online versus having to phone a call center, and the growth in service related queries demonstrates this," Keogh said.
  • Half of the wireline purchasers used service provider websites throughout the research process, and almost three-fourths said these sites were a very or extremely important research resource. That's hardly surprising in today's market. Search engines, consumer-generated reviews, and authorized reseller sites all beat out TV ads as information sources. For that matter, so did family and friends.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 8/22/2013 | 12:52:26 PM
YouTube I'm not surprised that YouTube is becoming more common for research and troubleshooting. Given how poor a lot of companies' customer service is, something we're discussing on Mari's blog today, a lot of people are turning to other users for help and advice. People love to offer advice and hear themselves talk, in general, so user forums are growing. YouTube is a good place to actually be walked through a process, so I imagine that's a big part of it.
Sarah Thomas 8/22/2013 | 12:44:39 PM
Re: Shopping on your phone I do some shopping on my smartphone (to be fair, it's the Note II, so the size of a small iPad), but I find I sometimes miss fine print that way. For a service like broadband, I still prefer to call in. You can find better deals that way and take advantage of promotions. Sometimes it just helps to fully understand what you are buying and have the name of a person to blame if something goes wrong. These survey results clearly suit Google, so I think need to be taken with a grain of salt.

DanJones 8/22/2013 | 11:53:07 AM
Re: Shopping on your phone How do they deliniate any more? There's such a cross-over. I mean Chromecast is a cable dongle that uses mobile for remote control.
Carol Wilson 8/22/2013 | 11:47:36 AM
Shopping on your phone Clearly, I am old-school, but I don't find a smartphone all that great for shopping. My iPad, maybe, but for something as significant as my broadband service, I'm headed straight for the PC.

That said, it's amazing how hard it is to find all the information you want about a service on a Web site - there's very little flexibility in the service bundles, for instance.

I happen to be shopping for broadband right now and it's very hard to compare services, because of the way the service providers choose to display their wares. I really wish there was a portal where I could price exactly what I want to buy.
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