Why the smartphone should be the jewel in the marketer’s crown

Mobile Marketing

Alex Ladyman, Data & Strategy Lead at Audience Store, says the modern smartphone offers a unique window into consumer behaviour.

If you had to rank what you use your smartphone for, how far down would ‘phone calls’ come? I’m betting it’s not at the top. Or, for many people, even the top three. 

Depending on your age, interests and job you can bet the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are up there, or maybe LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Twitter. There’ll be a Spotify or iTunes for most of us, our news websites of choice, maybe a running app and then some weather forecasts, shopping apps and the all-important COVID-confronting QR reader. 

According to Comscore, in 2019 we collectively spent 1,106m hours on our mobile devices looking at social media, 751m seeking entertainment, 527m playing games and 242m shopping or browsing retail. 

Access point
My point is, what is the true role of the mobile phone in 2020? With the number of smartphone users worldwide today surpassing 3bn, to advertisers these always-on, always-connected devices are the perfect access point to their customers – existing and prospective – and arguably the most valuable platform by which to reach the public.

They mark the point at which the lines are blurred between the consumption of most media – whether it’s TV, publishing or the now all-encompassing ‘audio’. The humble smartphone is the reason all content must be adapted for multiple platforms – or created in a way that is platform-agnostic. 

But it is, of course, about far more than content. It is about advertising, messaging, interaction and, crucially, measurement. 

More than half of all web traffic is now mobile, and with the emergence of 5G technology and the associated increased internet speeds and connections, mobile web traffic will only continue to grow. Indeed, global mobile data traffic is predicted to increase by 400 per cent by the end of 2024.

Mobile commerce sales are expected to hit $2.92 trillion (£2.21 trillion) in 2020, and brands who have not taken the smartphone seriously until this point need to clean up their act. A smartphone is now a retail store. It is a catalogue. It is a product review site. And it is a portal on which advertisers can track, measure and retarget consumers with astonishing precision.

Live mobile data
Live mobile data can tell us which audiences are moving about certain areas at any one time. This means not only can we deliver a personalised message to a specific audience based on where they are, we have the ability to sync our mobile strategy with other channels. For example, audio ads can be triggered against a user when they walk past a big billboard at Kings Cross of your advertiser, with a complementing message. The granularity of this targeting/creative execution is the greatest weapon advertisers have in their quest for efficiency, eyeballs and attention, and the role of the smartphone is becoming ever more sophisticated.

High impact ads, where the creative is designed to stop the user in their tracks in one eye-catching, attention-grabbing hit, continue to grow in reach and inventory and, when bought programmatically, deliver a combination of context, accuracy and impact, propelling the user straight into the middle of the marketing funnel.

To that end I think it is only a matter of time before the ubiquity of the smartphone makes the whole concept of the marketing funnel obsolete. Devised to measure the customer journey – from top (awareness) through middle (interest/consideration/intent) to bottom (intent, valuation, purchase) – our mobile phone habits today make it all very difficult to ascertain exactly what stage of the journey the consumer was at when they made a purchase and where that attribution should be credited. 

Where once the bottom of the funnel meant a decisive action – a conscious move from consideration to the act of making a purchase, either in-store or visiting a retailer’s website, there is now little to differentiate between the two stages. The data signals available, combined with the creative and user journey, allow our advertising to work harder. Audiences are not as cold as they used to be, nor is the journey as complex. Why not start to attribute sales activity to your previously middle funnel activity, rather than looking at just clicks?

Instagram’s Swipe Up function is a perfect example: you can be admiring a coat/duvet cover/storage solution one minute and with barely a flick of the thumb be on the retailer’s website, adding to basket and tapping the checkout button. All in less than 30 seconds.

Buy now, think later
Our bank account details are saved to our PayPal accounts, which are in turn saved in our phones which, combined with the impulsive buy now, think later nature of 21st century consumerism, means the only thing that differentiates impulse purchases from considered decisions is personality type. 

Marketers today should be focusing less on what someone’s phone can tell them about a brand, and more on what it can tell the brand about them. Instead of considering the mobile phone as a standalone marketing platform, marketers should think about its role in measurement that can then feed into other elements of their ad campaigns. 

When applied appropriately, implemented effectively and analysed carefully, the mobile phone as a tool can provide a more valuable insight into consumer behaviour than any other measurement method. While content is king, to marketers the real power of the smartphone lies in the data it holds.