Mobile Isn't a Marketing Channel. It's a Multi-channel Beast In Need Of Taming

Marketers focused on mobile as “a channel” are quickly finding out something their brand heads may not fully understand. It isn't just a channel. From the complexities in spending, R&D to the tactical consumer engagement strategies, this area is "special."

While it’s possibly a channel in the traditional sense of the term – that is, it’s not TV, radio, or email – it also is those things and more. It’s more of a remote control for life in the near future that will soon require multiple approaches for what are effectively “channels within the channel.”

There are millions of apps, location targeting, push notifications, SMS, mobile Web, email… Never mind that it’s also a phone, camera, GPS…. how do you nail right time/message/offer/place across that many nodes?

And while marketers dance through the algorithms and criteria, mobile is entirely in the hands of the consumer, in two important ways. First, it’s literally in the purse or pocket, making it a desirable target for marketers. But second, users have the option to turn off notifications, disable location targeting and veritably shut themselves off from marketers.

Amazon is building a loophole with the new Fire phone – complete with everything you need to buy anything, anytime, from anywhere. But not all retailers can turn out custom hardware to drive the shopping experience. So where does that leave everyone else?

In the end, mobile is a vehicle to get what we want when we want it, so brands need to look at how to target within the channel to make it work. And upon closer examination, it’s clear that mobile isn’t just a channel anymore.

It’s many channels and needs to treated as such.

Content optimized for a tablet needs also to be readable on a 3 inch screen. Three sentence emails with an image that are easy to scan via a lap top or tablet, aren’t so easy/effective for consumers dashing through their inbox during a meeting.

So in all that, what will live on are the core pieces. E-commerce, for example, will be increasingly important because it’s a one-click purchase. Mobile activity will trigger things in the real world. You’ll complete a purchase via mobile, and receive a catalog in the mail later.

While some would argue many of the channels within mobile are on the endangered species list, (email is going to die; app pushes are going to die in an overcrowded field; mobile banner ads are struggling to gain traction, etc.) the truth is, no one knows just yet how it will be used. 

We can only bet that it will, and be ready to optimize all forms of marketing for each type of engagement.

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