Introducing The Smartphonatics

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I recently published a report on How Americans Pay Their Bills, which — based on a survey of nearly 5,000 consumers — sized and forecasted the channels and methods by which consumers pay 28 of their most prevalent monthly bills.

Forecasting is a tricky art. There are lots of ways you can go about building a forecast, including straight-line trending, developing a regression model, and other methods.

What I chose to do for this report was to define different consumer segments based on their bill paying behaviors and attitudes, and estimate: 1) how the size of the segments would change over the next few years, and 2) how the behaviors of each segment would change.

In exploring different ways of segmenting consumers for the purposes of my report, I discovered something (which will elicit a resounding “duh” out of many of you): Smartphone ownership and attitudes towards smartphones is a useful segmentation dimension.

What I discovered in my analysis was a segment of consumers I’m calling the Smartphonatics. (I haven’t decided if it’s pronounced smart-PHONE-atics or SMART-fanatics, let me know which one you like better).

Although smartphone ownership is projected to reach 50% in the near future, not everyone who has — or will have — a smartphone is a Smartphonatic. What distinguishes this segment from other consumers are their attitudes towards the smartphone and their behavior (in the case of my report, it was their bill pay behavior that was relevant, but I think the behavioral differences go beyond bill payment).

Probably not surprisingly, the attitudinal difference demonstrated by Smartphonatics is their desire to use their smartphone to pay their bills. But the interesting thing is that, behaviorally, they’re the segment that is more likely to have already changed the way they pay their bills.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the latter is pretty important. After conducting consumer research for so long, I’ve become pretty jaded about questions that ask consumers how willing or likely they are to do something or to change their behavior. I think our stated likelihood to change is way higher than our actual rate of change.

But the important element in the forecast is the identification of a group of consumers who — while not representing as large a percentage of consumers as you might think — will drive the majority of changes in bill pay behavior over the next few years.

What makes this blogworthy is that this segment is going to be a catalyst of behavioral change in a range of areas, not just bill payment. This is the group that will lead the way to mobile retail payments, as well. They don’t just have a smartphone, and they don’t just intend to change their behavior as a result of using a smartphone — they’ve already changed how they conduct their lives as a result of technology.

Look for the Smartphonatics to lead the way to mobile services over the next few years.

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