By Aimee Chanthadavong

Lack of education and transparency are hindering advertisers’ ability to reach Australian consumers as they become more mobile than ever, new insight from Google shows.

According to the study, conducted by IPSOS MediaCT, roughly two out of three Australians own a smartphone, more than the Us, UK, France or Germany. In fact, smartphone penetration in Australia has doubled since 2011 to 65 per cent, putting Australia nine percentage points ahead of the US in the race of smartphone ownership.

However, despite this data, 60 per cent of large Australian advertisers do not yet have a mobile website, meaning they’re missing out on customers trying to visit them from smartphones.

Jason Pellegrino, Google head of mobile sales, told RetailBiz unlike physical stores, the tell-tale signs of what the next steps retailers should take on how they can engage with their customers are not as obvious when it comes to the smartphone space.

“Firstly there’s a lack of education and that’s one of the areas we’ve been spending time on. We’re out there trying to provide information to our clients, including retailers, about why it’s important to be where your customers are and how to do this,” he said.

“Another area is the lack of transparency. If you run a small retail store and you are the owner of that store and you stood up at checkout you can see the entire checkout process and where the roadblocks are. But with mobile and online it’s difficult to see what’s going on. In many ways there is data available to make this transparency much easier but it requires more time. So this lack of transparency often hides the urgency to act.”

According to Pellegrino, if advertisers are able to take the time to sift through all the information they have, then it provides them the opportunity to get to know their customers, which will allow them to deliver a more personalised campaign.

“I think you have to realise there’s an increasing portion of customers that are coming through a digital channel either via smartphone or tablet devices. So you have to take this into account and take the time to understand what the customers are finding, what is their pathway across your mobile asset, are they finding what they want and they’re basic questions that retailers have been answering since the beginning of time,” he said.

“Now it just it requires a rethink of understanding what challenges they are experiencing and interpreting what the customers are after.”

With smartphone ownership on the rise, mobile has continued to shape the way people shop. Sixty-eight per cent of smartphone owners have researched a product or service from their device; of them, two-thirds have made purchases from mobile, up from just 28 per cent last year. Others who start research on smartphones go on to complete purchases on a desktop (41 per cent) or even in-person (39 per cent).

“Not only is smartphone penetration liberating the way we are shopping but it’s also breaking down long held retail notions. For example, ‘your customer’ standing in your store may only be standing in your store to compare prices, so you may need to think about whether someone in your store is really your customer,” Pellegrino said. 

“At the same time, people may be using a mobile device to click through to an e-commerce site but those clicks don’t necessarily convert into a sale. Instead, people may be looking for a contact number or address and instead it may lead to a transaction in-store. So retailers need to understand that they have to look beyond the normal online conversation. And that’s why it’s important for retailers to understand their customer’s pathway flow, which will help answer those questions.”

Adidas is one company Google worked with to provide a clearer understanding of their customers’ shopping journey.

Google’s research also shows there’s a significant opportunity for marketers to create campaigns that work across multiple screens, especially considering that six in 10 smartphone owners surveyed searched for a product or service from mobile after seeing an offline ad.

“What we encourage our clients to do is to just work through the data and understand the first instances of what devices customers are using when they’re coming to your site. People coming to the site on a tablet may want something different than those who come to the site on a smartphone or into the store. Once you understand those needs then you can develop and tailor multiscreen campaigns that let you refocus on addressing those needs,” Pellegrino said.