But, Really, Why Do You Go Mobile?
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jan 12 01:30:00 GMT 2005

Analysts keep trying to understand the average mobile phone user -- but that aggregate data might not be all that useful. The next stage is letting customers segment themselves.

Recently, mobile operators and handset makers have finally been paying attention to segmentation. The real trick, however, has been recognizing that segmentation means more than just three or four classifications -- but recognizing that there are many different reasons why anyone would by a mobile phone.

However, it appears that even the analysts are still focused on segmenting mobile users into three or four easy to define units that are somewhat obvious. People buy phones and service because it makes them more productive or secure -- or because it's convenient to have that mobile connectivity. Sometimes choices are influenced by style or the ability to make a fashion statement. If you're in the business of selling handsets or mobile service and you didn't already know this, you're likely to be in a world of trouble already. So what good is another report telling you the same thing?

A much more interesting analysis would be to look at customer segmentation in light of "the long tail" theory of economics -- where the ability to market to many niches, in aggregate, outweighs the benefit of just providing to a few large core segments.

While providing mass market segmentation may seem easier at a first glance, new technologies are making it increasingly easy to customize on the fly. This can involve both devices and services. The end result can be happier, more loyal customers, who are willing to pay a premium to get what they want. This isn't just about designing "luxury" handsets or premium services that cost more, but about designing handsets and services that actually meet the needs of individuals -- not market segments. It means letting people customize their own solutions.

This isn't done with walled gardens or "company knows best" solutions. Instead, it requires opening up and actually letting users create exactly what they want. More open, more customizable solutions will allow people to find their own niches, rather than being classified from above. This will lead to a better fit, happier customers -- and users who actually use devices and services in the best way possible for themselves, rather than what some faceless company thinks they should be using.