How to Analyze and Understand Customer Behavior in a Mobile App?

Kseniia Petrina

Marketing Specialist

October 24, 2022

Can you imagine anyone searching the Internet for manufacturers, comparing them, and checking customer reviews before buying sugar? And what if it comes to a smartphone? A little research before such a purchase seems more logical. 

Every consumer is unique as an individual, but at the same time, people of different ages, genders, and professions around the world share some patterns when choosing products and services. Understanding these сustomer behavior traits allows marketers to develop effective solutions to increase audience loyalty and company revenue.

By continuing to read this article, you will learn:

  • what consumer behavior in marketing means;
  • what global changes have affected buying habits in different niches;
  • what can influence purchasing decisions;
  • how to find an approach to the customer depending on their behavioral patterns;
  • how to take marketing to the next level using data-driven methods.  

What is Consumer Behavior? 

The concept of consumer behavior includes the actions, reactions, and decisions accompanying the purchase path. Simply put, the term describes when, why, and how often consumers choose a particular product. 

Why Should You Pay Attention to Customer Behavior?

Studying audience behavior helps to better understand customer needs and motivations. The data gained from analyzing purchasing patterns is used in predicting the buyer's next steps and reactions and allows you to personalize each customer's experience. As a result, your marketing stops being a shot in the dark. It starts positively impacting your following goals:

  • Attracting new users. It's also essential for brands to understand where customers are coming from. This analysis allows you to direct your marketing efforts correctly: develop successful acquisition channels and optimize less effective ones. 
  • Retaining existing customers. It can be compared to choosing gifts. Usually, you know what can please a close friend. If you need to congratulate someone you don't know very well, you try to guess their preferences or present something that will work for most people. The better you know your audience's expectations, the more valuable offer you can give them. 
  • Better understanding your audience. You can read dozens of books and articles on marketing, regularly attend training webinars, complete courses, or hire the best experts. Alas, none of this will give you such a clear understanding of the habits and preferences of your audience as studying the behavior of real users. Patterns of their actions will help you determine what to include in your communications strategy and what is better to avoid. For example, if an average customer makes a repeat purchase every three months, it's not a good idea to send them a "Hey, where did you go?" message a month after their last order.   
  • Developing your business. Best-selling products, the most frequent searches, testimonials – through their natural behavior, customers can tell you a lot about what they like and what they lack. Analyzing behavioral patterns helps you avoid wasting budget and time and determine which product features are worth investing in.

How Has Consumer Behavior Changed in Recent Years?

Over the last decades, the development of technologies has significantly affected our daily life and, as a result, consumer behavior. The Internet has become more accessible, and shopping has gradually migrated from offline to online. Further, customers increasingly began to choose goods and services on mobile devices instead of desktops and in apps instead of browsers. The most noticeable changes in shopping habits were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Various research companies regularly publish reports on the latest trends in buying behavior, where marketers can get valuable insights on working with their audiences. Here are some conclusions.

  1. The everyday life of the average person consists of micro-moments. This term, coined by Google in 2015, refers to the situation of picking up a smartphone to perform an action related to one of these desires: "I want to know," "I want to go", "I want to buy", "I want to do". 

According to the study, customers' decision-making process has transformed from lengthy searches to "snatches" on mobile devices. Sessions are becoming more frequent and shorter because, in most cases, the smartphone is at our fingertips and can satisfy a need for information and even a service. It means that brands need to ensure their presence in the mobile space. 

  1. Shoppers reconsidered their buying habits because of Covid-19. The upward trend in online shopping continued after the lockdown repeal. 58% of respondents say they buy more online than before the pandemic. In addition, consumers' priorities have also changed. Customers are now more focused on necessities and putting off big purchases. Experts also point out a higher public interest in a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of their well-being, consumers increasingly choose not only environmentally friendly goods but also use appropriate digital products: applications for exercising at home, programs for proper nutrition, meditation, etc.
  2. Brands are experiencing a loyalty shock. During the pandemic, safety and availability have become the main shopping criteria for many people. In addition, some consumers faced financial difficulties due to the lockdown and the inability to work. Therefore, the former commitment to brands has lost its importance. Shoppers disregarded the brand name and chose what was affordable and profitable. An analysis of McKinsey & Company found that 73% of consumers who tried new companies' products during the pandemic intend to continue using them further.
  3. A bridge appears between online and offline shopping. Although buying goods on the Internet has gained consumers' love because of its convenience, physical stores still have a place in shoppers' hearts. Dynata survey respondents cite the main drawback of online shopping as the inability to touch/feel products. 

Manufacturers from some niches are already seeking to compensate for this with augmented reality (AR). More and more consumers can "try on" new clothes or furniture for their homes. In addition, AR has quietly become part of our communication with friends and colleagues. Do you need new makeup or an unusual interior during video meetings? The filters and backgrounds of today's services and apps will give you that experience.

  1. Alternative payment methods are actively entering the buyer's life. With the onset of the pandemic, it has become a challenge for many companies to implement contactless payment for their goods and services quickly. As soon as merchants got used to the new reality, the market dictated the need to explore the topic of cryptocurrencies. 

This payment method is not widespread yet, but it is already possible to identify the categories of goods where such purchases occur most often: gift cards, electronics, clothes/shoes/accessories, groceries, and luxury goods. Brands from these niches should track such a trend to keep up with their competitors. 

Factors That Affect User Behavior

As a rule, everyone's purchases take place under a combination of two conditions:

  • I want it/I need it;
  • I can buy it.

An in-depth study of purchasing behavior reveals that there is a web of many emotional, psychological, and economic factors behind these conditions. People are driven by their motivation and external influences. On the one hand, the large number of factors influencing consumer behavior makes it difficult for marketers to do their jobs. Even a successful marketing strategy requires regular review. On the other hand, if audience behavior is flexible, the brand has a chance to influence purchasing decisions. However, companies can't control all factors. Let's take a look at what can push consumers to choose a particular product.

Personal factors 

The category includes customers' individual traits such as age, gender, marital status, income, personality traits, lifestyle, etc. These characteristics significantly impact a person's desires, needs, and abilities. 

For example, a typical student's purchase in a booking service might be tickets to their hometown for a weekend and inexpensive housing for a summer vacation trip. After getting a well-paying job and getting married, their usual order might be 2 tickets to first class.

Psychological factors 

This is a group of the most difficult-to-predict reasons that actually have a decisive influence on the customer's interaction with the product. This refers to the person's emotional reactions, moods, perceptions, and attitudes. 

User actions can be a reflection of brand actions as well as other external factors. For example, a language learning app sends a push message to return to training: "20 minutes of lessons a day is a small step toward your dream job". If this resonates with the user's current goal, such a notification may motivate them more than others. 

The opposite example: parents are upset by the child's behavior and decide to remove all game apps from the device as punishment. In this case, leaving an active user is not caused by dissatisfaction with the product. At the same time, there is still a probability that he will come back after some time.

Social factors

Every person, to some degree or another, consciously or unconsciously, is influenced by the surrounding society. We often rely on the opinion of friends, loved ones, colleagues, and even strangers when making a choice. For example, you may want to watch a popular TV series because everyone around you is talking well about it.

Here are a few more thoughts that visit us because of society's influence:

  • I want to buy a laptop, but I can not choose between similar models from different brands. I need to ask my friends who use these companies' devices and look at online reviews. 
  • I don't like this messenger, but my coworkers at my new job use it. So I have to install this app again.
  • I used to take pictures, but now videos are trending on social media. I need to find a good video editor app.

In this context, it is also worth taking into account the person's role in society because it determines the expected actions of the buyer. The same person can simultaneously be a son and a father, a manager at his main job and a blogger in his spare time. His consumer behavior will be different for each listed status.

Types of Customer Behavior in Mobile Apps

Another important criterion influencing buying behavior patterns is the product the customer chooses. Chocolate, seasonal shoes, a smartphone, or a car – each purchase is characterized by a different frequency and decision-making features. A similar pattern applies to digital products: the session duration and regularity of use of a gaming app and a banking app will differ significantly. 

Researchers of consumer behavior have developed several theories and classifications describing algorithms of consumer actions when choosing goods or services. Next, we will consider 4 typical models of behavior, the main theses of which can be interpreted for most niches, including mobile applications.  

Habitual buying behavior

Purchases are made by inertia, in autopilot mode. It is inherent in consumers when choosing familiar and usually inexpensive goods. Offers from different brands do not differ much in properties, so the customer most often buys the product out of habit. 

Example

The customer uses the Google browser and Google translator on the desktop, so in the Google search results, he will find this service in the first place when entering the word "translator". When the user needs to install a simple translation app on their smartphone, he’s more likely to choose the Google app out of habit, not looking at the other solutions in the app store.

Interaction methods

The consumer is not inclined to experiment, so the main task is to draw attention to your product:

  • Develop a unique selling proposition. For example, the service DeepL positions itself as the most accurate translator in the world and uses this USP in screenshots in the app store. 
Screenshots DeepL in the App Store
Screenshots DeepL in the App Store
  • Even if your app is designed for the same tasks and may not differ much from other solutions, focus on a particular feature of your product that you will promote. It can be a mascot, an unusual design, or the most user-friendly interface.
  • Create a special offer for newcomers. If you build the right strategy to engage new users, dumping your product at the start can bring you a significant part of a loyal audience.  
  • Be careful about repositioning your brand if you already have longtime customers who choose you by inertia. Radical changes can scare away loyal users who are consistently generating revenue.

Searching for Diversity

This type of behavior occurs when the consumer wants to try new variations of the same product, and there are numerous offers from different brands on the market. The customer is open to new experiences, tastes, and formats.

Example

The user spends a lot of time on social networks and makes creative content through photo and video editors. After using the available effects, he looks for new formats and templates in other apps to diversify his stories and posts.

Interaction methods

Buyers seeking diversity are receptive to external influences and new information. It means they are more likely to respond to promotional campaigns and make impulsive purchases without long deliberation. Companies can use the following methods to engage such audiences:

  • flashy advertising;
  • personalized offers;
  • social proof: emphasis on bestsellers and products that popular influencers choose.
Trending items section in the Aliexpress app 
Trending items section in the Aliexpress app

Keep in mind that this type of behavior can also work against you. In order not to lose users who are chasing novelty, review your product regularly and make necessary updates. 

Dissonance-reducing buying behavior

This behavioral pattern is usually inherent in customers who are hesitant to buy some goods and services. Uncertainty of choice can be caused by various factors:

  • the buyer doesn't understand the product very well and doesn't see significant differences between the offerings of different brands;
  • the buyer usually uses products from the same companies and fears that the new product will not satisfy him;
  • the buyer has a negative experience with the previous product and is cautious about choosing a replacement so as not to be disappointed again. 

In other words, dissonance-reducing buying behavior is any action a customer takes to reduce the possible risks or discomfort when buying an unfamiliar product.

Example

Dissonance-reducing buying behavior is one of the explanations why applications are removed soon after installation. For example, a user is interested in writing music but is still utterly unfamiliar with audio sequencers for mobile phones. He installs several of them to evaluate their usability and functionality. After choosing one product, he deletes the other apps from the device. 

Interaction methods

To influence buyers with insecure buying behavior, your campaigns must work in two ways:

  • nudge the audience to consider your product;
  • make a good impression and prove the benefits at the user's first interaction with the product. 

Here are a few techniques to help achieve the desired result:

  • Pay attention to your brand awareness. Even if the customer is not yet interested in your product, your company's name should pop into their mind as soon as the need arises. 
  • Implement an onboarding and collect user feedback to introduce your product;
  • Make the purchase terms flexible: offer a free demo, allow returning or exchanging the product, establish a simple process to cancel the subscription at any time, etc.
  • Provide an easy way to contact the support service: let your experts be ready to help the customer make the right choice.
Pop up for a quick support request in the Hopper app
Pop up for a quick support request in the Hopper app

A profitable deal

This model is based on the tendency among people to save money and look for bargains at the lowest price. The customer takes a rational approach. He is result-oriented and estimates the value for money. The consumer does not pay attention to the brand: he compares the properties of the product and its cost.

Example

The user chooses an application to learn a foreign language. Two selected apps are attractive at first glance: it uses gamification and different content formats for easy assimilation of knowledge. A premium subscription to the first app costs more, but all the content becomes available to the user. The second app has a cheaper premium plan, but some thematic courses need to be purchased additionally.

Interaction methods

To make your app stand out from the competition, you can use one of these approaches:

  • offer more benefits for the same money;
  • offer the same set of features for a lower cost.

If the user can make in-app purchases, it's important to help them decide. To do this, provide the following solutions:

  • detailed descriptions of all products;
  • compare products or subscription plans on one page; 
Product comparison feature in the Rozetka app
Product comparison feature in the Rozetka app
  • an option to add a product to favorites;
  • subscription to be notified when an item is in stock or when its price goes down;
  • personalized recommendations for similar products;
  • incentives for users to leave reviews of products they've purchased. 

How to Understand User Behavior using Data-Driven Approach?

A true understanding of customer behavior cannot be based only on theory, hypotheses, and research studies of other companies in your niche. To develop a successful strategy, you need real data about your audience. A combination of four types of information will give you a complete picture of your customers' buying habits:

  • Identity data. Basic information that enables a person to be uniquely identified. Typically, this data is provided by users themselves and is stored in some customer relationship management (CRM) system. It includes name, gender, email, phone number, mobile app token, loyalty card number, etc.
  • Quantitative data. An overview of measurable interactions with users. The category includes information about orders, abandoned carts, product/subscription values, in-app/site activities, message openings/clicks in various channels, etc.
  • Socio-demographic data. Details that turn faceless contacts into living people. Understanding the clients’ marital statuses, professions, and lifestyle makes it easier to predict their actions and personalize the communication.
  • Qualitative data. This type of information makes it possible to understand why a customer makes a particular choice. Examples of qualitative data include a person's preferences, attitude toward your product, the likelihood of their next purchase, motivation, needs, etc. 

To implement data-driven marketing into your strategy, follow these steps.

  1. Determine the goals your company needs to achieve. It can be increasing the average check, appealing to a new product, growing brand awareness, etc. Establish transparent metrics and key performance indicators. This will help to focus on collecting truly valuable data. 
  2. Identify strategic segments. To do this, you must have a good idea of your customer portrait. You will need to collect socio-demographic data and match it with the clients’ actions from specific groups. For example, using the Reteno platform, you can view the dynamics of filling the desired segments in automatic reports. 
Segment tracking in Reteno
Segment tracking in Reteno
  1. Design customer journey and customer lifecycle maps. At first, they may be imperfect and miss some steps. By studying the behavior of the audience, you will be able to fill in the gaps after a while.
  2. Choose possible ways to collect data at each important stage. It is necessary not to focus on one channel but to consider different sources: an app, a website, newsletters, social networks, an offline store, etc. For maximum efficiency, combine the two approaches to gather information:
  • ask customers directly (sign-up forms, surveys, offers to leave the feedback);
  • use tools that collect data automatically (Google Analytics, Meta Pixel, UTM tags, sending events to a data warehouse or a marketing automation system).

Some methods, such as cookies or tracking user activity across other apps and sites, require user consent. In this case, you should not just send a standard dry request but show the client what benefits it will bring him.

  1. Use the findings to optimize interactions with customers taking typical actions. Select the best channel to deliver relevant personalized content for each person. Your strategy should unobtrusively follow the user, support them throughout the journey, and include a quick response to obstacles. 

Review your marketing campaigns periodically and make necessary changes to the communication or product as you get data on new behavioral trends.

  1. Reinforce data-driven marketing with artificial intelligence. To automatically predict client behavior and generate solutions for different actions, develop and customize machine learning models using a single analytics environment. Constant processing of new data by AI will allow your campaigns to be sensitive to changes in audience actions and adapt quickly to new conditions. 

Final Thoughts

A typical day for the average person consists of habits and micro-decisions. For example, you usually wake up early, drink coffee, and read the news. Colleagues don't bother you about work matters at this peaceful time. Tonight you were going to stay home, but your friends suggest you go to the cinema because the movie you have been waiting for is coming out. So you change your mind about being a homebody and, after all, go out. 

A similar parallel can be drawn in business activities. When you know the habits, needs, intentions, and desires of your clients, you can be as helpful as possible and, simultaneously, not distract. Make consumer behavior analysis an integral part of your campaigns, and you'll soon get great results. 

If you want to learn more about audience behavior, you can get useful information on behavioral segmentation from this article.

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