What 10 Years of Mobile Marketing Has Taught Us About the Next 10

What 10 Years of Mobile Marketing Has Taught Us About the Next 10
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Jeff Hasen

Last updated August 8, 2017


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There is no such thing as The Year of Mobile. This phrase is used often, but it really has been a process that’s spanned nearly a decade, and is only just beginning. Consider this: in 2010, there was an estimated 62.6 million smartphone users in the United States. That number has risen to 222.9 million in 2017 and is projected to hit 264.3 million by 2021.

In 2015, Salesforce reported that 68 percent of companies integrated mobile marketing into their overall marketing strategy.

This is how Jason Spero, Google’s Vice President of Performance Media, looks at mobile’s path to today:

Before and including 2011, sure, you could run mobile ads, build mobile loyalty clubs, and more, but marketers in large numbers were not ready to dive in.

By 2012, mobile marketing efforts led to more sales and deeper engagement. But, in large part, those who were participating were considered early adopters with room in the club for many others.

By 2013, mobile’s value to marketers had been proven. The questions shifted from why to how, with many choices and decisions to make.

By 2014, those who had not done mobile or had just dabbled in it felt a sense of urgency. Not only were competitors often times eating their lunch, customers had moved to mobile devices. The percentage of companies optimizing email for mobile devices saw an increase of 22 percent in 2014 alone.

Beginning in 2015 and continuing today, the mobile user has established expectations—and they’re growing every day. A marketer’s job is to meet and beat those expectations.

Where are we 10 years into the mobile marketing era?

Some are doing it well. Others, not so much.

5 Reasons Marketers Fail

Here are five words to describe the brand marketers that are failing on mobile:

1. Selfish. If you're reaching out to mobile users, you had better be answering their needs and desires, not simply fulfilling your own.

Jonathan Stephen, who drove innovative mobile programs at JetBlue, points to the greed of some brands that seek to needlessly uncover such inconsequential details as how many sweeteners wireless owners put in their coffee and if they use Splenda or Truvia. Unless you are an artificial sweetener company looking to grab more market share, this information is extraneous and prying.

2. Illogical. Common sense deserves more credit than it gets.

For example, why create only an iPhone app if your customers are mostly or completely Android owners? That's just dumb. But it happens. Smart marketers rely solely on their own business's customer insights to power their programs, and to address the specific behaviors exhibited.

3. Timid. Seize the day.

Hank Wasiak has been marketing for more than five decades. He is among the most accomplished in the field, but when he looks in the mirror, he says that he sees someone who has often moved too slowly when change was needed. The ad executive's lesson for mobile marketers? Seize the day and think bigger. "With mobile, you get not only into the pocket of a consumer, you can get into one's heart," he says.

4. Impulsive. Watching, tracking, and responding to consumer trends--these are tools of the patient, humble, and successful marketer.

If your brand is struggling, perhaps those are tools you are not using enough. Sean Lyons, R/GA U.S. president, chides marketers who go to such conferences as South by Southwest seeking to determine which products and services will matter. The better approach? Don’t try to predict. Rather, discover and monitor. Consumers are going to decide what matters, and you need to be ready to rapidly respond as they do.

5. Inattentive. Every interaction—or inaction—can teach you something, if you're paying attention.

Spero calls consumer actions on mobile devices "signals," rich with information that can tell marketers a great deal if they are on the lookout for them.

5 Qualities of a Successful Marketer

Conversely, successful business leaders like Spero offered advice on the kind of relationship-building mobile marketing that is driving their success:

1. Be Pragmatic. Mobile has changed everything about marketing—and yet it's changed nothing.

We still need to sell stuff. It's merely the how that is different. Identify the business results you want and design your efforts to those ends. It's easy to be distracted by the pixie dust and possibilities in the digital arena. Filter the possible through the lens of what's wise.

2. Knock Gently. Mobile users are a lot more open to interactions with brands than many marketers believe—but the efforts need to be respectful.

Just because customers invite you into their homes doesn't mean you get to put your feet on the furniture, or stay all night. This means no 3 a.m. text messages for a dollar off a burger. And no push notifications every three minutes while someone is shopping. Less is more.

3. Simplify Life. Mobile is for action.

A theme that emerged often in conversation with mobile's best thinkers: Mobile should drive action. To do that, eliminate the unwanted. Beyond his or her mom, name one person who wants to read the bio of a company's CFO on a mobile website. List store hours, provide directions to your location, make purchases easy—whatever action your customer needs to take. Forget the rest.

4. Prize the Relationship. Just as you would with a spouse or other loved one, work daily to make the interaction even richer.

Businesses have extensive information available about many of their customers. For instance, purchase data that shows what generated a response from a mobile ad or offer can give a look into the desires of a wireless user. Wise mobile marketers interpret these signals and get even more personal with tailored outreach to individual customers that proves the brand’s value.

5. Get Better. It's called mobile, right? So keep moving.

Your efforts to reach mobile users should always be evolving. You may feel you are performing well today, but you should constantly be seeking new products or technologies that enhance the mobile experience. Maybe it's a better way to tell a traveler that his or her gate has changed, or an easier way for someone to find and save a mobile coupon. We all need to be better tomorrow than we are today. And it’s what mobile users expect and demand.

Without question, the next 10 years will be more important than the last. Marketing Land projects that mobile advertising will represent 72 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending by 2019. It behooves us to take the learnings from the last decade and perform to levels exceeding our users’ expectations.

About the Author

Jeff Hasen is a two-time agency president who is the mobile strategist for POSSIBLE Mobile and the author of two books, The Art of Mobile Persuasion and Mobilized Marketing: Driving Sales, Engagement, and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices. He has also been named as one of the top Chief Marketing Officers on Twitter by Advertising Age.


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