Thursday, January 18, 2007

Audience for Mobile IM

I had a very healthy debate with a friend of mine over a subject which is the next rage in mobile communications. The use of IM (Internet Messenger) over mobile, not the SMS way, but in exact replica of the way it currently functions over PC. So instead of PC, the same interface and near about the same pattern of interaction a user can do through mobile. Recently read in TOI that in US more people prefer using IM over mobile than PC based IM. Ok, that's interesting. Now back to the debate point. My point was that the audience for such kind of applications would be the young, college going folks or probably people who are addicted to chatting and spend endless hours chatting on the net (bachelors of different kind - something which even I was couple of years back!) and not people like me (though that doesn't mean I am old!) who are always hard pressed for time be it at home or at work and the last thing I would do is log in to my mobile and chat with friends!!!!

My friend's point was that if you get used to the chat application, you get hooked to it. You can check out your mails, chat with friends while you are on the move. My point: As you keep moving up the ladder, work & responsibilities also increase. Probably 6 years back I would have used such kind of application when I was a self confessed hard core, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, AOL chatter. I used to chat endlessly for hours coz I found pleasure in that(Ekta can vouch for that - how I once spent the entire night in office chatting with her in US and left for home early morning!) . Cut to today. Life is moving in fast lane. Leave for office at 9.00 Already running late. Drop wifey at her office. Wriggle through traffic to reach your destination. And now that I am at office, I am online - why will I feel the need to check mails or chat with someone thru mobile? And if I am driving, how can I do that in the 1st place?

FP (friend's point): Well if you have a chauffeur driven car, or if you are using a public transport then you do get time to log on and check your mails or chat with someone or download your mails to mobile etc.

MP (my point): People who have chauffeur - well the last thing they would like to do is chat with someone on yahoo or msn!! They are a totally different audience segment. yes, they would like to access their emails but they would prefer using BlackBerry for that. In the free time that they get in car, they would rather catch up on the Economic Times.

People like me who spend around 10 hrs online at office and again around 1-2 hrs online at home won't feel the need to check their Gmail or rediffmail on their mobile. I can very well check it whenI reach office or go back home. That whatever little free time that I have while I am driving or moving in public transport is the only time that I will have for myself and to be honest, chatting with someone or checking mails won't be the 1st thing on my mind then :)

Tell me will you yourself feel the need of activating your GPRS service and paying though the nose for it to view your yahoo/rediff/gmail mails on your mobile??? Unless of course if you are waiting for some coveted job opening reply. Yes, probably as a curiosity they would check it out, which I will confess, even I do, but not as a long term thing. And as far as chatting is concerned, again as you move up the ladder and work increases, how often do you get time to really chat with someone? And in most of corporates with all IM blocked, slowly you get over it and you get time for chatting only when you actually have time for it and that is mostly at home when you are catching up with personal mails, orkutting or sending that personal mail which you couldn't do from office. Activating my GPRS and paying 12 rs everyday for it besides monthly fee just to chat thru my mobile and that too only when I am not accessing net on my system (which is if I am on vacation or in public transport) not my cup of tea.

So to sum up my take is that the primary audience for applications like these are the college kind of gang, love birds, Lukha vella log who are optimistic that through chatting they can find their dream partners, young bachelors (MTs, graduate software engineer trainees) who have ample of time besides work and don't know how to spend or the Lokesh that he was from 1998 to 2004 - the baap of chatting arena which many of the current readers would vouch for. :)

What's your take on this thing? Would love to know.


Shails said...

My Dear friend, I feel MIM is useful for people like me who are hardpressed by time..... I dnt get much time in office to chat, at home 2 small babies waiting for mommy dear to cm bk home... hardly get 3 hrs to spend with them.... no time 2 call/chat wth my friends once m at home n in office, m at mercy of wrk load.... so time I spend in cab frm my home to office is only time i get to chat or talk with my friends.... I make best out of that time by using MIM to stay in touch with my friends.... specially friends who are not in India... bcz of time difference, by the time i reach office they off to sleep n when i am about to leave office in eve their day begins...... u can say may b m hooked onto MIM... but honestly i think life is incomplete without GPRS n Series 60 handset. I have spent 4 months without GPRS n high end phone n i know how much I missed it... now the question is do i like to spend money from my pocket to get GPRS connection:)

Geminiacal said...

Well I completely disagree with your view simply because the perspective expressed id very narrow and completely not reflective or representative of the IM audience that ACL has captured. Being an ex-ACL employee, I can definitely vouch for the fact that though the target audience for the IM application on mobile was “assumed” to be the hip-hop teenagers who as you say are addicted to chatting, the success was more among the age groups 20-40. Most demographics and geographical fundas that would make sense did NOT of this application. Apart from being a world class product it served the basic human need to connect, form a community, communicate “on the move” and be available on a device that has since its introduction garnered a huge liking amongst all sections, even in a third world country like India.

You believe that
1) IM on mobile is/will be successful amongst teens only
2) GPRS costs will act as a deterrent and users won’t take to the application

On the first: well this is your perception. The same could hold true for desktop IM’s as well but obviously doesn’t considering the number of registered users with these applications.

On the second: Well people said the same about SMS sent at premium rates. Popularity of SMS for programs like Indian Idol, for sending greetings, downloading ringtones, astrology etc have proved this wrong. Hence, maybe time will prove us all wrong and GPRS will be big in India as it is some other AsiaPac countries.

Overall, your opinion is your own :) and you’re entitled to it. So what are your chat id’s again? ;) would be nice to ruin your concentration at work and keep you away from it , time and again to take you back to your bachelor days then :D

lokesh said...

Aahh… after a long time a counter view point. What’s the fun of a debate if there is no counter point. :) Ideally I wouldn’t have replied to the view point but certain points in your reply tickled me to write back. Let’s start with the audience. You are saying the success was more among the age groups 20-40. First thing first. If I am not wrong, and as I gather from ACL website and media reports, the IM application in question is YET to be launched. So where is the question of ‘success WAS’, unless you are talking about some different product made on same lines. Even if that’s the case, don’t you think that the age group that you are defining is too broad– I mean from 20 to 40 direct – 20 years! In this age group, was there any bifurcation done on who would be your primary TA, secondary TA, hyper active users, active, passive, dormant users? Now if you would have read my post carefully you would have realized that the examples of primary audience for MIM that I had given were:
• Young crowd
• College going chaps
• Management Trainees
• Graduate Software Engineers
• Young bachelors, bachelors in their late 20s

I had no where mentioned that IM on mobile would be successful amongst teens only.

I am sure you will agree that all these people fall under age group 18 – 28. So that take care of half the age group of TA that you were talking about which vindicates my stand of this application’s popularity between the TA profile that I had mentioned in my post. Assuming that the TA that you have mentioned had been bifurcated further, was any ‘actual’ field research done on who would be your potential users, who would be the active users, who would be the one who would access this application daily, weekly, monthly etc? Was any kind of personas created on different audience segment and extensive field studies carried out to validate the personas? You know, many times unknowingly we depend on statistical data to guide us through creating personas and build user models. Like Siddhu says, statistics is like a bikini. What they show is interesting, but what they conceal is vital.  You say that your application has been a hit amongst 20-40 age group segment. Good. But it doesn’t tell me which specific age group users are using it heavily and which are not. Let me give you a real, related example. About a year back I was working on an ethnographic research that we were conducting for a globally popular online communication application. The company wanted to conduct a research in Indian market to find out users’ usage pattern with the application. In the initial screening, we short listed around 100 users from different age groups (16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40). All of them said that yes they have registered with the application and have used it. Further screening and telephonic interviews revealed that around 85% of the 16-25 age group band use it heavily (at least 2- 6 hrs in a day, 4-5 times a week), around 55% of 26-30 age group use it frequently(1 hr a day/2-3 times a week) and around 60% of 31-35 band said that they use it moderately (30 min -1.5 hrs/2-3 times a week) and around 70% of 36-40 band said that once in a while they log in to check out msgs/chat. So what do we have here? 100 users all from age group 16-40, registered with the IM application but with different usage patterns. This brings me to the point that you have mentioned – about number of registered users with an application. A success of an application cannot be determined by the number of registered users it has. The success has to be determined by the actual users using the application.

You know ICQ has over 37 crore users including your’s truly. But only 80 lakhs + people log in everyday and average logged in time is 5hrs. And interestingly, 80% of daily users of ICQ come from age group 13-29.

Stastitics say that in India the percentage of mobile users with IM-capable phones will grow to 62 percent in 2010 from a mere 4 percent currently. I have recently upgraded to Series 60 phone so yeah – what they are saying is true but will I be using the MIM, after all I am a potential customer has not be answered by anyone including you. And that’s why based on my personal thoughts, opinions of people around me who are in the same age bracket/work profile/same kind of personas/people in same boat as I am & my experience with related research I had said that the application would be more successful (heavy & active usage) with the audience that I had mentioned in my post and here. So when Shails say that she uses the application (daily?) she still is not my primary audience but is a part of that small percentage of secondary audience segment of age group 30-35 who would probably use the app. The rest would be like me who don’t have any doubts about the product being world class…serving basic human needs to connect and all…but honey, where is the time?  And more than time, why would I like to pay around 200-300 rs per month more as GPRS cost just to chat with some friend of mine which I can do from desktop too.

I recently did a Contextual Inquiry with users of Satellite TV viewers to study the usage pattern of various interactive features. Over 70% people said that they upgraded to satellite TV coz the hardware and monthly operational cost has fallen down. Same has to hold true for GPRS cost too. If you want passive potential users like me to use the application, the cost model has to be delinked from GPRS cost and made more of pay per use (something which Reliance also offers on their CDMA).

Btw, people using SMS at premium rates for shows like Indion Idol or other reality shows, I think it’s more to do with emotional connect that people have with the show. If a programme manages to achieve that connect, then cost takes a backseat for users. How am I sure of that? Coz I for once never believed in these stupid programmes where you need to send expensive SMSes to vote for people but couple of weeks back I myself sent around 20 smes to evict Kashmira Shah out from Big Boss coz I was disgusted with her bitchy behavior on the show. :) :)

In the end, I still stick to my opinion and perhaps you might stick to yours :) But I am game for adding anyone on to my chat ids (which is lsapre[@], lokeshsapre[@], lokeshsapre[@], orkut:lokesh sapre) who can have some intellectual and not so intellectual conversations with me ;-) and more importantly, claim to ruin my concentration and take me back to bachelor days again!!!! ;-) 

Cheers & Peace!


Blogger said...

Did you know that you can create short urls with AdFocus and get dollars from every visitor to your short links.