Mobile: Brands should react but how can they deliver value?
Mobile is everywhere and the possibilities for those companies embracing the technology when it comes to marketing are endless. By Richard Edwards
Such is the growth of mobile that it is expected to exceed desktop usage sooner rather than later, opening up a range of new opportunities for those firms that are prepared to invest in mobile.
Despite its manifest potential, anecdotal and statistical evidence suggests that this remains an area which organisations are reluctant to devote significant funds to, meaning that at a time of economic uncertainty, I firmly believe most companies are missing out on a new and lucrative revenue stream.
So why are firms still reluctant to spend their money on mobile?
“The percentage of retailers that have invested in mobile is very low, it’s something like 8%,” says Nick Lane, chief strategy analyst at mobileSquared. “It shows that mobile is still not seen as a primary vehicle for brands, which is incredible when you think of how many people in the UK have a Smartphone – a total of 39.8%.”
That’s a stark picture of just how behind the game leading brands are, but offers an insight into both the issues and opportunities that currently face mobile marketing.
And although some companies are already reaping the rewards of investing in what undoubtedly has the potential to become an enormous growth market, Lane admits that, in general, it’s still “a hard sell”.
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“From the research that we’ve done, that’s the reality,” he says. “Once a client for an agency sees how they can use mobile, how it fits within their own marketing remit, they then start to look and explore fresh ways of using mobile, especially location.
“The problem really is getting the next wave of companies in and that’s still quite a tough sell.”
In short, I believe that companies appear stuck in their ways, but although mobile web is still playing catch-up with PC-based internet, there are definite signs that this is a situation that will change dramatically as we move through the current decade.
“There are those in the internet world like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc who say the future of the web is mobile,” says leading 3G strategy consultant, Tomi T Ahonen.
“We can do everything on mobile today, that can be done on the PC. Not necessarily always as well, or as easily, or as cheaply, but all that can be done on the PC based internet, can be done on mobile as well, clearly evidenced by the Apple iPhone.”
Technological advances mean that the capabilities of both are becoming increasingly blurred, and I support Ahonen when he argues that the mobile will soon replace the PC as the dominant web-communication medium.
“Mobile can do far more than the internet ever could hope for,” he says.
“The PC based internet was designed for those people who have a desk, who work at a desk, or who have easy access to a desk.
“But mobile was designed for the pocket. So those people who work in areas that do not have a desk can benefit from mobile, and only the mobile internet.”
It’s clearly taking time for companies and brands to reconcile themselves with this fact, but Lane believes that when firms begin to see a correlation between mobile strategy and bottom line profits, then that will change.
“The key thing for driving this is to show people that you can make money on mobile, the operators can see that it’s not just about their relationship with the consumer over communications, they can then extend that into a transactional relationship,” he says.
“Once you’ve got that then obviously the brands and the business can see an end-to-end journey and how you can take the consumer from communication and messaging all the way through, using mobile, to that transaction. They can see that there’s a direct return on investment, which perhaps wasn’t the case before.”
At the moment the extent of some companies investment in mobile consists of investing in apps – a strategy that I believe can sometimes prove to be the equivalent of pouring money into a substantial black hole.
And although apps clearly have a place in mobile strategy, I believe it’s important that firms fully understand the impact they can have before spending vast sums on what could amount to little more than a white elephant.
“It’s the age old story,” says Lane. “Some have been forced to create an app, just so their brand is on the iPhone.
“The problem is, very often, no-one is going to use it and if that’s the case then they’re going to have their fingers burned because they’re going to have invested a lot of money, anywhere between £20,000 and £40,000 just to get their name up there and they don’t actually know if their customers have an iPhone or have android.
“They wouldn’t invest money willy-nilly on any other platform but for some reason the allure of being on an app store is so over-powering that they’re willing to sign off a cheque to get that created, without thinking about the actual strategy behind it.”
This a situation that Martin Wilson, co-founder and managing director of Mobileweb Company, is familiar with.
In a blog post as far back as April 2010, he referred to something called the iSyndrome – where firms focusing blindly on iPhones weren’t only missing the point, but were missing out on huge opportunities too.
“I wish to put the device in perspective in terms of the market and more importantly strategic thinking,” wrote Wilson.
“In the UK the iPhone makes up about 4% (now around 8%) of mobile devices in circulation (that’s if we count all the legacy devices too), Android even less – a small slice of the pie. Of all mobile devices; some 70% accessing the mobile web are not Smartphones (now around 60%), some 62% using Applications are not Smartphones.”
Although the figures have changed marginally, bias towards the iPhone has waned slightly, I believe they still emphasise the need for an all encompassing mobile strategy – and in my view a renewed emphasis on engagement and keeping it simple.
“We see so many that appear to have been drawn by the hype and cool of mobile,” said Wilson, “but the starting principle should be to deliver a experience that works effectively on any mobile device. For most that does not mean an app, but a mobile web solution.
“A mobile web solution that works on any device should be able to be delivered for any organisation in just a few days, at very low cost. This is the ideal way to deliver a proof of concept, the perfect way to demonstrate value of mobile.
Apps and mobile websites are just a part of the picture, with mobile devices now accounting for almost 20% of all Google’s searches and a similar level at Microsoft’s Bing, mobile search should be an essential part of the strategy.
“Many mobile suppliers can’t enable brands to capitalise on this burgeoning opportunity. Limitations in their platforms mean they simply can’t optimise services and content to be discovered by search engines. Brands are missing a real opportunity to engage consumers and drive business.”
“In just a few days our solution can be implemented for almost any brand, and once in place used effectively to target key traffic sources, drive brand reach and engage customers,” says Wilson. “With everything tracked, it is very easy for a brand to see the real value that mobile is delivering.”
I believe that visibility is undoubtedly key to greater adoption and once again illustrates the need for companies to take an over-arching, rather than blinkered view, of mobile strategy.
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