As far as advertising in the 21st century goes, mobile marketing is the next gold mine, rich for the taking. With more eyes shifting to smartphones and tablets, ad dollars are beginning to follow suit, but still the opportunity remains largely untapped by marketers.
“American adults now spend almost a quarter of their media time on mobile devices, eMarketer estimates, yet this year’s spending growth will raise mobile’s share of the ad market to only 9.8%” (Mobile-Ad Spending Leaps, but Trails User Growth by Steven Perlberg,The Wall Street Journal)
Common sense tells us that there should be a surge of marketers eager to take advantage of the mobile ad space, but no such rush has occurred. Such a large discrepancy between ad spend and user time on mobile devices begs the question, why aren’t more marketers joining the gold rush?
The answer lies both within the technology of mobile advertising itself, as well as within consumer sentiment toward advertisers invading the mobile space, both of which were key topics at last week’s 314 Digital Mobile Discussion Panel, where industry professionals and met over breakfast to discuss the challenges and opportunities of mobile advertising.
The panel was hosted by 314 Digital, a St. Louis based professional organization dedicated to education, networking and career development for interactive marketing professionals.
- Ryan Edward Brown – Executive Creative Director at Manifest Digital
- John Karpinski – Director of Local Sales (Central Region) at Pandora
- Noor Naseer – Manager at Centro
- Scott H. Thompson – Ad Partnerships (Chicago) at Flipboard Inc.
- Jesse Wolfersberger – Director of Consumer Insights at GroupM Next
The Mobile Challenge: Navigating an Evolving Medium
Mobile presents a unique challenge to marketers in that it is a relatively new medium, and the technology is still being developed. Smartphones were widely introduced to and accepted in the market less than 10 years ago, and tablets less than five. Advertising tends to trail the curve of technology growth, filling in and monetizing spaces as they mature, often carrying over tactics used in older mediums. In the case of smartphones, this led to the introduction of mobile banner ads, the younger cousin of display banner ads, and mobile ad units on social media front-runner Facebook.
In theory, mobile banner ads offer branding and a direct response option for advertisers without disruption to the user experience; in practice, mobile banner ads leave much to be desired. Historically, click-through rates shine on mobile banner placements, but because the screen is significantly smaller than a desktop, “fat-finger syndrome,” or accidental clicks, are also higher and must be accounted for in reporting and when determining the best cost-model for campaigns. For many advertisers, mobile banner ads do still out-perform banner ads on the display side, even when accounting for accidental clicks– perhaps due to “banner blindness” on the desktop.
Facebook ads, on the other hand have fared extremely well in their introduction to the mobile space. According to recent research, “60%…of social media time is spent not on desktop computers, but on smartphones and tablets,” so Facebook’s advertising success in the mobile sphere doesn’t come as a big surprise (Social Media Engagement: The Surprising Facts About How Much Time People Spend on the Major Social Networks by Emily Adler, Business Insider). Unlike mobile banners, Facebook mobile placements are all prominently placed in the newsfeed with a large visual, and take up the entire screen in the app environment. The creative execution, coupled with Facebook’s wealth of existing data about their users, allow marketers to serve highly relevant advertisements with high click-through and engagement rates.
The Road-Map to Mobile Success: Understanding the Consumer
Although the standard mobile placements of today have already delivered promising results to advertisers, mobile has the potential to go far beyond the traditional banner or social ad, and the key to unlocking this success lies within understanding the consumer. If marketers want to capitalize on the shift toward mobile, they must grasp the differences between how consumers use mobile and desktop devices and how the mobile experience ties in with other behavior.
Desktops are not fading away with the development of mobile. Instead, consumers tend to use their mobile devices as a companion to their desktop. Panelists agreed that most mobile usage falls under application use – Americans are now spending 46.6% of their total internet time with mobile apps! (marketingcharts.com), browsing and making “digital lists” that are later re-visited on a desktop or in-store. In-depth research and purchasing are still primarily taking place in the desktop environment.
Marketers can pair the knowledge of these usage trends with the fact that mobile devices are highly individualized to the user. Knowing the consumer starts with knowing their applications. As pointed out by one panelist, “you are what you app”. A wealth of information about an individual can be gleaned just by looking at which apps they download, which apps are used most frequently and even what apps they keep on the first screen of their device for easy access. Overlaying data from applications with outside consumer data and location data will help marketers meet the demands of consumers with more relevant content when and where they need it.
The Future of Mobile: Beacon Technology
One of mobile’s newer developments, beacon technology, has the potential to open the floodgates for marketers in the mobile space. Beacon technology identifies when a smartphone or tablet is in a certain range of the beacon and can then send that device a message.
While this kind of technology presents a huge opportunity for marketers to serve relevant and actionable messages, there are several hurdles to overcome before widespread adoption occurs. Consumers must opt-in to location services and push-notifications for applications and have blue-tooth enabled on their device in order to receive the messages, something many users are net yet fully comfortable with.
Beacons should be used to enhance the consumer’s experience. It’s advertisers’ responsibility to be transparent about how and why consumer data is collected, as well as to avoid being overly invasive with messages. If beacon messages serve irrelevant or annoying messages too often, they will quickly come to rest in the ad-graveyard alongside pop-up advertisements.
Mobile is both applicable and actionable for advertisers big and small, but as technology advances and mobile ad spend rises, advertisers must remain transparent and focused on delivering the most pertinent offers to consumers. We are living in the age where consumers, not advertisers, run the show, and in order to be successful we must listen to feedback and avoid crossing the fine line between being intrusive and being relevant. The mobile advertising ecosystem may not be fully developed yet, but future of mobile is bright, and with the development of advanced attribution and mixed media models marketers will be able to take full advantage of all the space has to offer.