The year of mobile marketing is finally here! Now what?

For years, next year was the “year of mobile”. Now that it’s arrived, what’s a marketer to do?

The landscape is multi-faceted, the language obtuse, the stats mind blowing. Every article you read about mobile trumpets incomprehensible truths.  It’s like, if the universe ends, what’s beyond that?   Do we really want to know? Sure, why not?

US Mobile Spending growth

Thought Provoking Statements:

  • “Mobile has completely disrupted the path to purchase and most retailers have been left with the pants down.”
  • “Mobile is the biggest social network you have. If you send good content, people will pass it on and you get more opt ins.”

Mind Blowing Stats:

  • 79% of large advertisers do not have mobile optimized landing pages
  • 60% of people who do a search on mobile end up visiting the store
  • 1.9 Billion internet users. 5 Billion mobile users
  • Only 26% of applications get opened after download
  • According to Google, searches on smartphones have increased four times over the last year
  • Worldwide mobile search experienced a 2.3 times growth between the fourth quarter in 2009 and fourth quarter in 2010; five times growth over the past two years
  • Global mobile marketing spend is expected to rise from $.5 billion in 2010 to $1.5 billion by 2014

Growth of US Smartphone Users

So, after all of the hype, what’s the game plan?  I don’t know if I can answer that, because it’s different for every situation. Perhaps it may help to outline the major considerations:

A)     There seems to be a raging debate between whether to develop a mobile enabled web site or build an app. Personally, I don’t think there’s a question. A mobile enabled web site is table stakes.  Just take a look at how a desktop enabled site renders on your smart phone and I rest my case. Do it!

B)      The next question should be whether to develop an app; and if so, what it should be and which operating system to build it for? All legitimate questions and fraught with many potential pitfalls and questions along the way.

Smartphone OS Market Share

  1. Although you can certainly pay less, Apps can average $30,000 or more to produce, per OS (Android, iPhone, Blackberry, and with the upcoming partnership Nokia, the world’s largest phone maker; Windows Phone 7).  So, obviously it’s a large financial gamble that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of if it falls flat. Think… your job! Each of those platforms comprise a small snippet of the total internet audience (your customers). Of those that eventually, engage, only  a small % (see above Mind Blowing Stat) become heavy users. Your assignment, should you accept it, get the light users to engage?
  2. Should you build a rich environment that allows purchases within the app, drive people to your mobile optimized web site, generate ad revenue or a mix of any of these?  Should you charge money to download your app or give it away for free? That all depends on your business model and some hard decisions.
  3. If your app does not provide any utility to your customer, don’t expect them to waste their time. You’ve just wasted your money.  Businesses need to create applications that deliver relevant content to a targeted mobile audience. A lot of businesses have created apps that look great and are fun, but don’t necessary achieve the strategic message for the brand, or for that matter, ROI.
  4. Once you build it, how do you get your potential customers to download it? After all, the app discovery process is a frickin’ nightmare. What we’ve seen to be most successful is when clients promote their app to their own customer base, whether that’s through their web site or newsletter distribution. Perhaps a less successful strategy; promoting through mobile ad networks.

C)      How about targeting your audience through mobile. All marketers think about targeting, right? More things to consider:

  1. Usage is 5x on an app over a mobile web site. Yet, mobile web sites garner significantly more uniques.  Again, think of the market size available via a mobile web site vs. the limited market size of an app.
  2. The difference with mobile vs. desktop, is that advertisers are buying demographics, audience and time periods, as opposed to content and publishers.
  3. How about video ads? It’s a much more “personal” and “immersive” experience on your phone. TV has way too many ads so people skip them. Not so for mobile yet, so video has a much stronger impact!
  4. What about local targeting? It’s not just about delivering a coupon text message when someone walks past Starbucks. How about targeting someone with a ski apparel message when they’re driving up to Tahoe or a specially tailored travel coupon message when someone’s near the airport?
  5. How frequently do you target?  When people get 5 or 6 text messages, that becomes intrusive.  So, frequency capping and message management are important. Standards are evolving via MMA guidelines.

D)     Natural convergence of social networking and mobile marketing

  1. Facebook’s global mobile audience had increased from 65 million users in Sept 2009 to more than 150 million active users in July 2010
  2. Social location sites (SoLo), such as FourSquare are becoming enablers of social and marketing services.  Foursquare has leveraged one of the unique advantages of mobile phones, the ability to pinpoint where the phone and it’s user is and share that information. This can attract “buzz” about particular establishments that are frequented.
  3. Forrester research believes this is an indication of where mobile marketing is heading. Location based applications are typically downloaded by heavy mobile researchers and heavy social network users. Just think of the people you know who share these traits.

E)     Let’s not forget about Mobile Search?

  1. People are increasingly searching from their phones.   Not only that, since their phones are always around, it’s easy to multi task from the living room couch.  Basically, the phone or iPad will likely become the new universal remote control.
  2. This will change, but currently Google owns about 97% of the mobile search market, so that makes the choice pretty easy.
  3. Not only does Google own the market, but they now have a running start with enhancements, such as local extensions that allow searchers to see all your locations on a map; “offers” that expand under your ad; as well as click to call. One warning here, Google will charge you the per click price when a searcher clicks on a click to call ad. However, the call is not going through, as they may lead you to believe. It only populates in your phone. The user then can decide whether or not to make the call. You get charged even if they do not call you.
  4. We have several clients with successful mobile search, despite not having an optimal landing page experience.  If you’re running a search marketing campaign, it certainly makes sense to test it out.
  5. One in three mobile search queries have local intent. Mobile search should be a piece of your local search marketing strategy.

So, overall mobile marketing has many of us salivating with the prospects. It’s exhilarating being on the cutting edge.  So much so, that I’ve had to give up caffeine.

For the near future, while mobile will become a bigger part of your marketing mix, it will likely be a small part of your overall marketing spend. The hurdles right now are creative limitations, uneven targeting, data and analytics.  Once these issues are resolved, marketing investments will surely follow.  As in any direct marketing strategy, continue your cycles of testing, iteration and optimization. Go mobile!

Maureen Jann About the author

Maureen Jann is a veteran B2B marketer whose career in Digital Media has grown up with the Internet. A self-described jill-of-all-trades, Maureen has elevated creative problem solving to an art form and enjoys the daily challenges of driving business results in unexpected ways. Her skills as an entrepreneur, content marketer, creative director and passionate people manager set her apart from the pack. Maureen has worked in every corner of marketing making her a skilled tactical resource as well as a strategic partner. Recently, she was the captain of the marketing ship for an award-winning professional services firm and is currently creating a content marketing strategy for Point It, a digital marketing agency.

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