Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The mobile economy is with us, but companies are stumbling in figuring out how to be effective. Anindya Ghose, an Indian-born professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, who has been tapped as one of the management thinkers most likely to shape the future by the Thinkers50 rankings, may have some answers.

He has been studying the mobile economy on several continents, researching the factors that can point to success. He places the mobile economy at 4 per cent of global GDP and expects it to rise significantly. People spend about a quarter of their time with media on mobiles these days, but companies are spending only about 12 per cent of their ad dollars on that avenue, so growth is inevitable. "For organizations, there is a massive opportunity for monetizing mobile that they can tap into," Mr. Ghose says in an interview.

Hindering growth are four contradictions yet to be sorted out. People seek spontaneity, but are predictable and value certainty in their shopping and favour stores they are familiar with. People find advertising annoying, but they are missing out on great buys. People want choice and freedom, but are easily overwhelmed. People protect their privacy, but they increasingly use their personal data as currency.

Story continues below advertisement

Right now, advertisers are overwhelming prospects with messages. And they often resort to subterfuge to gain personal data rather than addressing the issue openly and offering to trade information for rewards, such as discounts and better-targeted messages. In one of Mr. Ghose's studies, for a mall in China, shoppers were offered the chance to use the mall's free WiFi as they entered, indicating where they would be shopping, in exchange for coupons and discounts. Even though they could use the WiFi without agreeing to share that data, 81 per cent did.

"I'm asking consumers to not hold back on data but share it. When consumers do that, however, companies must act responsibly," Mr. Ghose says.

In his book Tap, he identifies nine forces that are affecting the mobile economy. Asked to pick the most pivotal, he names:

  • Context: You need to understand the factors and circumstances that will determine the shopper’s decision-making. That’s not a new concept, but for mobile – when people tend to be in motion – it requires answering three questions. Why is the customer there? What does the customer want now? How is the customer feeling now? That allows you to extend the right offer at the right time with the right price.
  • Crowdedness: It helps to know whether the consumer is alone or in a crowd. Interestingly, mobile devices are a form of escape in crowds, as we get lost in our screens; so his studies showed commuters on a crowded subway train are about twice as likely to respond to a mobile offer by making a purchase as people on non-crowded trains. And the more crowded the train, the greater the increase. “If you get a targeted message, you are more likely to pay attention,” he notes.
  • Trajectory: It helps to know the path a consumer is taking so the marketer might predict (and shape) what is coming next. For example, in that study of a Chinese mall, if the person visited three high-end fashion stores in a row, a targeted offer from a similar retailer was highly effective.
  • Social dynamics: We respond differently to cues when alone, with family, or with friends. One study found that children in their “tween” years begin to replace their family members’ opinions about purchases with friends’ thoughts. Another found people are likely to spend more money when shopping with friends than family.
  • Weather: This can affect our moods and purchases in food, drink, fashion, travel and other areas. One study found that purchase likelihood increased 31 per cent in sunny weather and declined 9 per cent in wet weather. Time to purchase from receipt of a mobile ad is 42-per-cent faster in sunny weather. It might well be that variable pricing can help take advantage of these trends – higher prices for soft drinks in a vending machine on a hot day – or counter it, with discounts on wet days.

The other four forces are the location where the individual is, the time (duration of an offer, or point in the day when it is extended), the saliency of the message and the mix of technologies by which ads are sent. It's a complicated area, but one that is important for marketers to understand.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

Mark Mortensen of INSEAD discusses his findings about teamwork and how knowing what teams others are on can improve workflow Special to Globe and Mail Update

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies