At the end of 2011, the number of worldwide mobile phone subscriptions reached nearly 6bn according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU). For many westernised nations, levels of adoption have reached saturation point, with consumers owning, on average, more than one handset each. But what does this mean for us as marketers? The message is clear – mobile is now one of the most powerful marketing mediums in existence for directly engaging with consumer audiences and existing customers.
More than just a channel, the mainstream takeover of smartphones has transformed mobile into a wider platform that has converged a number of communication channels that were previously constrained to desktop computers and offline content. They’ve changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we shop, the way we find places to go, and the way we stay entertained on the move.
Statistics from IBM reveal that 15 per cent of all traffic to retailers’ websites came from mobile devices, while sales through mobile devices accounted for 12.9 per cent of all online transactions. While this presents a number of very obvious benefits to marketers, the smartphone’s ability to enhance the reach, content and engagement of marketing campaigns is continuously evolving, and taking on new and exciting forms. But amidst all of the excitement of this ongoing and extremely rapid change, how can marketers harness this power to not only better engage consumers via their phones, but also enhance wider marketing activity to create more integrated and exciting campaigns?
Consumers are increasingly engaging with online marketing messages via more than one device, and increasingly via mobile devices, so it’s vital that brands’ marketing efforts are optimised for mobile.
Growing to rival PCs as the primary source of consumer information, mobile has extended the availability of information from the desktop to the palm of your hand. But marketers will reap little reward from this development if the imagery and text of their communications appear in microscopic form on the consumer’s mobile screen.
Similarly, email campaigns with detailed subject lines become of little value if the text is too long to display the call to action on a customer’s mobile. Campaigns require a very different approach when being designed for mobile channels. It’s not enough to simply adapt offline designs and messages. Rather, the breadth of scope offered by the channel demands a fresh, device-driven strategy for creative application and design.
While these all seem like obvious considerations, it is surprising how often they are overlooked by marketers. From the different models of iPhone, to the plethora of Android devices, it is essential for marketers to build a deep understanding of the type of devices available and how they are being used by consumers to engage with marketing messages and campaigns. This knowledge must then be placed at the centre of all marketing activity, to ensure communication strategies are tailored accordingly.
As well as extending the reach of online marketing activity, mobile also offers marketers the ability to enhance the creativity and engagement of offline messages. Rather than asking consumers to hold onto a piece of direct marketing or remember a URL from a billboard or television commercial, mobile technology such as QR codes enables marketers to integrate online offerings into offline marketing activity. But the increasing use of Augmented Reality technology, enabling marketers to bring content to life before the consumer’s eyes by adding an extra augmented layer of consumer activity and engagement to direct marketing messages, shows just how quickly technology is developing. For this reason, it is crucial for direct marketers to stay up to speed with technology developments and constantly look for ways to use these new offerings to improve marketing campaigns. Alongside this, marketers need to focus more strongly on using mobile to integrate these offerings and enhance the impact of direct marketing messages, ultimately driving greater consumer interest and engagement.
Of all of the communication mediums, the evolution of smartphones has made mobile the most direct channel of all. Its ability to integrate all mediums into one accessible, always-on device creates a channel for reaching consumers anywhere, anytime. This offers a number of location-aware marketing opportunities, but also enables marketers to gather the insight required to create highly targeted messages that reach out to consumers on a much deeper personal level.
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of this opportunity is by capitalising on mobile’s natural convergence with social media. More than a third of Facebook’s users access the social network via their mobile phone. This type of access gives marketers a friendly and personal avenue for engaging with consumers, but also for learning more about them and encouraging further sharing of creative direct marketing campaigns or deal-orientated messages. But to encourage this type of voluntary consumer distribution, marketers must make it as easy and inviting by incorporating share-to-social links in all messages, and by making content interesting and engaging.
Rather than signalling the beginning of the end, the overwhelming adoption of mobile, the continual growth of digital mediums and the evolution of smartphones presents a number of unmissable opportunities for direct marketers. But to capture these, integration is key. By understanding how your target consumers have adopted and use mobile, campaigns that have greater reach, are more engaging and are more personally targeted can be developed. To achieve this, marketers must reinvigorate their approach to traditional direct marketing campaigns by understanding what mobile offers and how it can be used creatively and effectively to inject new life into direct marketing campaigns.
Phil Dean is managing director of Ingenious Rapport