This Micro Moment

So. I am stopped at a red light. The wait seems interminable. I pull out my iPhone, quickly check to see if there are new emails or a message on LinkedIn, or if there are any interesting articles or insights on one of my favorite news sites. If I am running behind on must-do’s, maybe I’ll try to schedule Milo the Wonder Dog for an appointment at the groomer, or order take-out for dinner.


In the the lane next to me an engine revs. I glance up, see the green left-turn arrow. I know this light. That arrow stays there forever, and then the northbound lane moves, while in the southbound lane we are still waiting. Plenty of time left to scroll down one more paragraph, or click-to-call before the light changes.


Mobile Micro-Moments


At first I did not recognize this behavior, which has evolved over the last year or two as weird. I thought of it more as a sort of double-sided, Pavlovian response to waiting – which is something I don’t like very much, and to reading interesting things and or taking action on my mobile device – which is something I do. And of course, I am not alone. According to Google’s Micro-Moments web site (an information resource for everything mobile that can and is being measured) “we check our phones 150 times a day.”


What’s more, the 177 minutes a day that we spend looking at our mobile screens 150 times equates to an average per-visit engagement of one one minute and ten seconds. Hence the name “Micro-Moments,” the descriptive label Google has adopted to identify behavior of the kind described above (although based on that average, traffic lights must cycle much more quickly in other parts of the country.)


In investigating consumer’s mobile behavior Google has identified four different types of activities or desires that map to four “Key Moments” a business needs to pay attention to in order to thrive. These are:


  • I want to know moments
  • I want to go moments
  • I want to do moments
  • I want to buy moments


Notice the operative “I want” declarative statement. This is not just consumer directed, it is consumer entitlement.


Additionally, Google suggest a 4 point check list for businesses with specific goals for each of those moments. (The goals are the same although the methodology for each is different). They are:


  • Be there
  • Be useful
  • Be quick
  • Connect the dots


In other words, no matter where the consumer is in their visitor journey, no matter their goals, or their mindset, any business that wants to win the mobile battle needs to:


  1. Show up
  2. Offer something of value that answers the customer’s want
  3. Do it quickly – because the light is about to change
  4. And then offer a seamless opportunity for the customer to take action


Not particularly surprising or earth-shaking. It seems like familiar common sense, except for the fact that many businesses do one or two of these right and much fewer do all four.


In addition, Google also offers some great context and viewpoints for marketers, case studies, lots and lots of customer-first statistics such as the fact that only 9% of customers will stay on an app that doesn’t meat their needs. (Or for anyone who read my post on Thinking Fast and Slow, 91% of customers will leave the app if it doesn’t!) So clearly, there is plenty in their report to make hay with.


But it is not so much my intent here to be a commercial about Google and their marketing insights. Rather it is to look more deeply into something else in the report – some subtexts – that are equally if not perhaps more interesting (to me anyway) because they address who we are and who we are becoming.


Here are some of the things in the report that give pause.


Mobile has Created a New Class of Anxiety


  • 87% of us have our smartphone at our sides day and night
  • 68% of us check our phones within 15 minutes of getting out of bed
  • 30% of us get “anxious” if we don’t have our smart phones with us


Keeping in mind that anxiety is a very unpleasant emotion, a soupçon of inner turmoil, feelings of dread about what is in store for us, even up to and including dissolution of self (also known as death) that’s a pretty powerful bit of data.


For a device that’s only been around eight years, knowing that one-in-every-three of us experiences fear and uneasiness when we are separated from our phones puts mobile-separation phobia right up there with natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts and floods as Chapman University’s Survey of American Fears suggests. (Check it out if you also want to see the percentage of Americans afraid of clowns and zombies.) No wonder wearables are taking off. With our phones on our wrists we feel safer.


The Satisfaction of Moving Fast has Mutated Into Hurry


  • One third of us are in a hurry when we search for a local business on our smartphones
  • 40% of us are in a hurry when we are using our phone to look for instructions
  • 28% of us are in a hurry when we are purchasing something on our smartphones
  • 40% of us will wait no longer than 3 seconds when we are shopping, before abandoning a (travel or retail) site


Being in a hurry has become a quality of our existence. We are in a hurry – not because it brings us pleasure – but because we can’t help ourselves. And like anxiety, being in a hurry doesn’t necessarily feel good. Think about the quality of the experience suggested by “I purchased my care quickly” and “I purchased my car in a hurry” (and also of the price and quality of the car you purchased) and the nuance is clear.


Implicit in the statics is the notion that we don’t have enough time, and a feeling of pressure and impatience. Not the release of the downhill run of a roller coaster, but the heaviness of waiting for something to happen and the need to breathe.


Certainly, for businesses that need a little extra push to commit more fully to mobile, Google’s report on how we use and relate to mobile today is clearly compelling. There’s no question that’s where the action is.


For those of us – and it may be the same us – who are used to thinking of customers and consumers as people, and whose notion of the ideal relationship with our brand is one that is keenly positive, the evolution of mobile and the hurried new world of attachment anxiety certainly gives us something new to think about.