Travel as Trigger for Technology Adoption
It’s fairly well understood that key moments can trigger people who are not early-adopter types to adopt new technology. Sometimes the trigger can simply be mass media saturation, but often a life trigger is also required. The summer of 2011 has the potential to be the tipping point for check-in and discovery apps, as people find a reason to play with them and discover their utility while traveling on summer vacations.
Carlen Lea Lesser, VP/Director
The idea of a “tipping point” is nothing new. Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point into mainstream success was his own book on the subject, which debuted in 2000 and spent 334 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. This summer has the potential to be a tipping point for greatly hyped discovery and check-in apps that have yet to see mainstream adoption. Discovery and check-in apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, SpotWorld, and even Living Social are one class of apps that may come into their own this summer, and bring “check-in” behavior into the mainstream.
According to a new Pew Internet study,1
35% of American adults own a smartphone — generally defined as mobile phones running the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, or Palm operating systems. Nearly 50% of people between the ages of 18 and 49 now own a smartphone, according to the Pew study, and this is the key to the trend I believe we’ll see building this summer and into the fall and winter.
As people who own smartphones — iPhones and Androids in particular — head out on their summer vacations, those phones will be ubiquitously present in their pockets and purses. This is the perfect time for the question, “Isn’t there an app for that?” to pop into someone’s mind. Even though many people may have walked by stores and restaurants that had a Foursquare window cling in the window, they may never have noticed them. When you are rushing through everyday life focused on the task at hand, you sometimes just don’t see things. It’s called “intentional blindness.”2
When people are more relaxed on vacation and looking to discover new things and have new experiences, I believe they will be more open to exploring new apps and mobile behaviors, especially if they believe it may enhance their experience in some way. It’s logical to assume that someone who may have just walked by QR codes and check-in or deal app window clings, may not only notice them in their relaxed mindset – but take the time to explore them.Implications and Action Items
Regardless of whether or not all 50% of people 18-49 who own smartphones adopt “discovery and check-in” behaviors this summer, there will most likely be continued growth in this area. Marketers may now consider Foursquare and check-ins old school, but it’s still new territory for most people. Take advantage of people’s desire to get the most out of their vacations by leveraging this trend.
- Get visible. The best way to get people to explore websites and apps is often offline and out-of-home. Put up the window cling or make your own signs, and be sure to let people know if there’s a deal or bargain for checking in.
- Co-promotion. Co-promote your presence on Foursquare, Gowalla, and other apps in your print or display ads.
- Deals. Let’s be honest, everyone is trying to stretch a dollar these days. Take advantage of all the coupon and deal options that discovery and check-in apps offer. On Foursquare, when someone checks in at a location near you, they see all the deals in the area. Your deal can become a way to bring awareness as well as convert sales.
Smartphone Adoption and Usage. Pew Internet & American Life Project. July 11, 2011. http://tiny.cc/a1n3c2
Human Perception and the Invisible Gorilla. John Cloud. Time Magazine. July 12, 2010. http://tiny.cc/20pwx Download Perspectives, July 2011
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