Porkers, Grazers and Nibblers
By Carlo Longino, Wed Sep 15 19:00:00 GMT 2004

A content aggregator has released a study of mobile content buyers' spending habits. While the names of the classifications it came up with aren't too flattering, it reveals some insights into mobile content buying patterns.

Bango looked at 2 million users' spending and identified the three most common types of mobile consumers. It says there are a rising number of "grazers" -- people that spend between GBP 5 and 20 per month on a wide range of mobile content, with their spending growing over time. For every 20 grazers, Bango says there's one "porker", a user that buys 30 to 50 pounds of content a month, some spending as much as 400 pounds in a month. Finally, there are nibblers -- people that don't spend much, and space out their purchases, perhaps a new ringtone every several months.

It's hard to imagine too many people would be pleased to be called a porker, but beyond the strange names, there's some potentially valuable insight here. Bango says grazers are most willing to shop around and try new sites, while porkers stick to their favorites. Nibblers and grazers have occasional "binges" where they will spend much more than usual. These can be followed by a "hangover" that can last several months, where they'll greatly reduce or eliminate their spending.

There are some other common behavioral patterns, too: the "passing fad," when a user first gets a new phone, particularly if it's their first with a color screen, polyphonic ringtones or a GPRS connection and buys a lot of content before settling into a regular buying pattern, which can be influenced by the "bill shock" phenomenon -- where users go a bit overboard in buying personalization content for a new phone until they get their next bill and realize what they've spent.

Bango also offers some strategies for content providers to cater to these types of users. Grazers, for instance, don't spend as much as porkers, but spend regularly and in increasing amounts over time. They also like to shop around, so content providers can help keep their interest by regularly updating their site and services to offer them something new. Their spending isn't necessarily limited to one type of content, and they're open to new things, so exposing them on a regular basis to a wide variety of content can boost their spending.

The company calls porkers perfect customers, given their regular heavy spending, and refers to the times when they're buying as "feeding mode". Content providers can take advantage of their consistent appetite for new content by offering subscription services, and can also target premium-priced content for when they are feeding, since they're not too concerned about bills. While nibblers' spending the lowest, they do appear to be responsive to text-message marketing campaigns, and can be enticed to "binge".

The flip side to all of this is that it may make content providers too focused on turning all their customers into "porkers" and mask the reality that they can very easily become another company's porker, someone who offers them a relationship they think is more valuable. Cultivating long-lasting relationships with customers is based on more than using marketing to exploit their buying habits.