Commentary

Mobile Has Disrupted Marketing. Now What?

The writing’s on the Facebook wall: Our transformation to a mobile society will completely change the nature of marketing. Mobile technology is bringing profound shifts to the ways we communicate with each other; how we share and process information; and where and when we choose to work, play, and engage with brands and content. Just look at this quick roll call of facts and figures. This year alone:

·  Tablet ownership has doubled

·  U.S. smartphone users have hit 107 million (eMarketer)

·  Teens have tripled mobile data usage

Our world is becoming freer, with consumers increasingly on the move. Google noted in December that over 700,000 Android devices are activated daily -- that’s more phones than babies born. Desktop computers make less sense every day, which is why sales are disappearing. Any new device that isn’t super-portable, super-useful, and super-relevant gets quickly cast aside.

 As a result, marketers need to change up their game to make their brands relevant to our mobile lives. With guidance from my colleagues and other industry experts, I have identified five best practices for the present -- and future -- of mobile marketing:

1. Come On, Get ‘Appy: Brick-and-mortar retailers are concerned about “showrooming,” where people use their phones to comparison shop (via Amazon and other merchants) while in a retail store. According to JiWire, 34% of consumers are using their mobile devices to do just that. Marketers can fight back with their own “app attacks,” building platforms or working with companies such as Milo and Shopkick to create feeds of local retail offers and encourage store visits and purchases. Keep in mind what Chris Silva of Altimeter has said: “A mobile strategy should not focus on demonstrating the means -- mobile platforms -- but on meeting the end needs of customers.”

2. The Multi-Screening Room: We’re changing the channel on traditional TV. There’s been a huge surge in multi-screening, with nearly 80% of smartphone owners using them while watching television. We’re tweeting, updating our status, and chatting. But we’re also keen to try out new bridge applications, such as social TV apps Viggle and Shazam, which bring us more interaction with content and brands. Marketers should also look to harness tailored cross-platform strategies, following the lead of companies like Volvo.

3. Break with the Past: In the past year, mobile video viewing has soared 36.9%, but that doesn’t mean marketers are simply replicating TV and online strategies on phones and tablets. Traditional banner ads -- even roadblocks -- have their appeal as an in-app format. However, we are looking at new, less intrusive solutions that work better on mobile -- a whopping 68 times better, according to one report. This means user-initiated branded video as opposed to forced views of repurposed TV spots. It means elegant in-image ads integrated into the photo content that we all love to view on our phones. Geotargeting features will create a whole new layer of hyper-relevance for consumers and brands.

4. Build Bridges: While they are often lamented, QR codes and other offline triggers play a valuable role as bridging technologies that connect the offline “real world” with users’ mobile devices.  But marketers must be relevant: The user has shown interest in learning more. You know they are on a mobile device. What kind of offer, opportunity, or relevant content will you deliver?

5. Let Them Talk Back: Next time you’re in a restaurant, look around. Chances are nearly everyone you see is engaged with their phones. Consumers are social and they are sharing their impressions of dining, retail, travel, and entertainment experiences in real-time and with real consequences for marketers. Smart marketers are tapping into the resulting data to open a two-way dialogue with customers -- and companies such as Bazaarvoice are helping.

The mobile evolution will continue unabated, as we move toward an untethered tomorrow -- one in which we only ever need a device or two, always with us and enabling a wonderfully uncluttered life. By following a few best practices, smart marketers can secure their place in that wireless future.

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