Read This Before You Spend Money On Mobile

tuleya-usethis“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Chris Tuleya, Vice President of eDR at Underscore Marketing.

Smartphone ownership has skyrocketed in the last three years, with nearly half of the US population now using smartphones. The trend has left brands scrambling to “do something” in the mobile space.

All the scrambling, though, can lead brands astray if they spend money on mobile initiatives before they understand all the implications of becoming more active in the mobile space.

I’m not saying that brands shouldn’t launch mobile sites. Building a mobile site can be a good investment even if you decide never to drive traffic to it. If your brand needs to provide basic information to your customer regardless of which device they are using, for example, a mobile-optimized site is a necessity. Not surprisingly, a recent Google study found that consumers visiting a non-mobile site with a mobile device feel frustrated and annoyed.

But this doesn’t mean that brands ought to actively invest money in driving traffic to their mobile sites. Developing a mobile-optimized site for a friendly customer experience is drastically different from aggressively pursuing a mobile audience. A critical question to consider is: How will mobile drive your brand forward?

Aggressively utilizing media as a mobile driver first requires a better understanding of the role mobile plays within an advertiser’s marketing mix. Here are three key areas for brands to consider when sizing up the mobile opportunity:

  1. Customer Intent and Needs:  Do your mobile-site visitors look for bits of information, or do you want them to take some sort of action? Is the desired action realistic for someone on a mobile device? For instance, your mobile site might not be the place to ask users to fill out multipage forms. To understand your customers’ intents and needs, it can help to analyze your search trends.
  2. Mobile Influence:  It’s important to understand what influence mobile will have on your customers. If you are a low-consideration brand, a mobile property may not increase the likelihood of directly impacting action. If this is the case, actively seeking a mobile audience may not yield much benefit. However, if you can directly persuade consumers to take an immediate action – whether it’s ordering online or driving to a brick-and-mortar – some level of mobile targeting is essential.
  3. Audience Size: Meeting your mobile device audience at the right time with the right message can be a daunting task. Given the limited screen real estate, both in the ad and overall, getting in front of the right audience is crucial for mobile ads to be effective. Unfortunately, the type of targeting tactics used to create these serendipitous moments often limit reach. When looking to justify a mobile investment, you can be tempted to expand outside of your target to capture volume, but – like all marketing efforts – the focus should be on quality, not just quantity.

With mobile use gaining critical mass, marketers are at risk of flocking toward the shiny new objective without first clarifying its role. I believe mobile has great potential, giving consumers constant access to the world’s information from their pocket or purse. But it’s imperative to market to consumers at the right time and place to make it an effective channel for driving your brand.

To avoid frustrating and annoying your customers, you need to solve the mystery of mobile’s role for your brand before you invest in a mobile plan.

Follow Chris Tuleya (@tuleya) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Great perspective Chris. Thanks for sharing. My name is Bart Myers(@bartolah) – I run the consumer sites for Rovi, including SideReel, All Music and TotalTV, and am facing this issue today.

    My perspective on this is in line with your advice but with one addition:

    There is significant danger to your brand if you are not present on every major mobile platform – today. And if you’re asking these questions today for the first time – you are behind and in danger of losing your audience and influence.

    I agree that brands need to identify the customer need, purpose of the app., and appropriate audience channels for their mobile strategy. At the same time brands must approach their mobile strategy with a major sense of urgency. They need to be present in some fashion on each major platform (web, ios and android). We don’t have a choice – they’re too big to ignore and growing more each day (refer to Mary Meeker’s mobile growth slides).

    The major takeaway from Forrester’ recent Marketing Forum was around this very issue – what they referred to as the “mobile mind shift”. They noted that consumers now have “the expectation that any desired information or service is available, on any appropriate device, in context, at a person’s moment of need.” (1)

    Taken with your quote from Google’s research that “consumers visiting a non-mobile site with a mobile device feel frustrated and annoyed”, there’s no ime to wait. We need to stop frustrating our customers!

    Fortunately, we’re not alone. We’re all facing this challenge and great solutions are emerging everyday. One great example is around Responsive Web Design (rwd). The basic idea is that you can write a website once to flexibly display the best experience on a wide variety of screens – web, large and small tablet, and smartphone. This is a game-changer.

    We think of designing and developing for different screens to be a very expensive undertaking (and it certainly can be). Techniques like RWD must be in your toolkit and will help you bring a mobile friendly experience to most screens quickly. Check it out – @garyhepting, from my team created a RWD framework called Groundwork – play with it, resize your browser –

    While we’re at it, I also recommend that we stop calling it “mobile” and start calling it multi-screen since that’s what it is. The article noted that brands need to be cognizant of where their customers are and this fundamentally means which screens they’re using. Consider – the UX difference between a desktop web screen and a 10″ tablet(mobile) is actually significantly less than the UX difference between a 10″ tablet and a 5″ smartphone screen.

    We’ve got work to do. Thanks again for writing this.