Global digital diaries: Buying a smartphone
We followed almost 100 consumers from eight markets (Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the US) as they went about buying a smart phone.
- October 2012
- By Martin Elling, John Forsyth, and Brian Salsberg
What if you could watch customers make a major purchase, from start to finish—and after? And listen to them all along the way? That would be fascinating, and illuminating.
That is the premise of McKinsey’s Global Digital Diaries project. We monitored, with permission and for a small fee, almost 100 consumers from eight markets (Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the US) as they went about buying a smart phone. We chose smart phones for this experiment because the major brands are global and because it is more interesting to track a dynamic target rather than a more static one. And smart phones are certainly dynamic. In the US, according to Nielsen as of March, about half of US mobile subscribers owned smart phones—a 38 percent increase over the previous 12 months. More than two-thirds of recent mobile handset purchasers (ie, those who bought in the prior three months) chose to get one with brains. And in China, smart phone penetration is rising fast, reaching 33 percent in urban areas.
We asked the participants to describe, in a confidential website, what they were thinking and experiencing as they went through their Consumer Decision Journey The CDJ is a concept McKinsey developed in 2009 to describe how people interact with companies and interpret their own preferences as they make a purchase. It has four phases:
- Initial consideration set – What brands/products do consumers have in mind as they contemplate a purchase?
- Active evaluation – Consumers gather information to narrow their choices.
- Moment of purchase – Consumers decide on a brand and buy it.
- Post-purchase – Consumers reflect on the buying experience, creating expectations/considerations that will inform a subsequent purchase.
In addition to written posts, many of the participants got into the spirit of the thing by adding videos, cartoons, photos and the like. A number enlisted their Facebook friends and Twitter followers for advice. Some were cryptic; some were genuinely creative. We supplemented this work with a 10-question survey. Together, these materials make up the Global Digital Diaries project.
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