Consumers’ Journey

Consumers’ Journey to Buy Mobile Continues to Evolve

Consumers’ Journey to Buy Mobile Continues to Evolve

Long gone are the days when mobile phones were always bought on a rigid two-year contract and customers had to wait until the very last day of their deal before exiting or upgrading.

New research from CCS Insight reveals an evolving journey to buy mobile phones and subscriptions that offers consumers choice and flexibility to piece together a service specific to them.

There are many trends contributing to this new buying paradigm. These include growth of refurbished phones, wider availability of of SIM-only and SIM-free offers, opportunities to part-exchange or trade-in devices and continued movement toward online.

In one of our most interesting findings, nearly six in ten people across both the UK and US said they would consider buying a refurbished mobile phone next time they change or upgrade.

This represents a remarkable change in mindset as consumers become more confident about the reliability and condition of pre-owned devices. It also reflects growing supply from a range of companies that now extends way beyond traditional channels. And with some smartphones now costing over $1,000 brand new, the repurposed option is an increasingly affordable way for many people to get their hands on a flagship smartphone.

Our research also revealed the growing role of online in people’s purchase decision; nearly half of people in the UK said they bought their phone this way. Further, twice as many people researched for phones online as visited a store in person. But in the US, it was a different story; two thirds of people bought in a store and just 27% went online. This may be due to the greater role played by US carries in the device market.

We also found that people are changing their mobile provider more infrequently than in the past. In the US, 26% of people told us they had never switched carrier (20% in the UK) and a further 27% only last did so more than five years ago (see chart below). The main reasons not to switch are good customer satisfaction, inertia and lock-in to an existing contract.

In the UK, Ofcom’s text-to-switch regulation – introduced last year – aims to make the process of changing provider less complex. Encouragingly for the regulator, about a third of people in our survey had heard of text-to-switch and a similar number said they may be more likely to change provider because of it.

The journey to buy mobile will continue to evolve. In doing so, it will present opportunities and challenges for both established players and new entrants. The landscape could be very different in the future.

When did you last switch your mobile carrier?

Base: All US respondents (n= 1,092)
Source: CCS Insight User Survey, Mobile Phone Buying, January 2020

The research was completed in December 2019. CCS Insight surveyed 2,193 mobile phone users, split evenly between the UK and US, representative of the population by age, gender and region or state.

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