About the only buzz bigger than social media right now is mobile marketing. Recently, Morgan Stanley put a marker down on the subject. The firm claims that within five years, more users will connect to the internet via mobile devices than desktops. Of course, Morgan Stanley is not the only analyst firm reaching such a conclusion, and the claims are backed up by staggering numbers. International Data Corp. recently announced that vendors shipped a record 54.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, 39 percent more than the 39.2 million shipped in the same quarter in 2008. AdMob reports (PDF) that in January 2010, worldwide requests through its network increased 32 percent month over month.
Not only are these devices entering the market, but they are also being used. The same AdMob study notes that Android and iPhone users spend about 80 minutes a day using apps, and marketers are responding. A December 2009 survey (PDF) from Quattro Wireless and DM2PRO reported that 65 percent of respondents plan to invest in mobile apps this year.
However, apps are not necessarily the brass ring they seem to be. Not only can app development be very costly, but it also carries certain risk. In the case of iPhone development, there is no guarantee your app will be approved. According to Apple, up to 20 percent of apps are rejected as originally submitted. Apps are also not nearly as popular as one might think, and comScore points out that only 19.8 percent of U.S. subscribers report using downloaded apps, compared to 28.6 percent of those surveyed who report using their phones' browsers. In fact, the mobile web grew 110 percent in the U.S. last year, according to a recent Quantcast mobile trends report. The bulk of domestic subscribers are most active in text message usage -- 63.5 percent, by comScore's measure.
Clearly, mobile is still an emergent space, and here are five key steps to consider when getting started:
1. All mobile sites are not created equal
The goal for any website should be delivering the most appropriate content to your customers, and mobile is certainly no exception. Make sure your website is not just accessible on a mobile device, but also appropriate for the experience. Mobile users have unique requirements that go far beyond the needs of the device; make sure you fully understand what motivates your users to open your site on their device. These users can be segmented into three groups:
- Casual: These visitors most closely resemble the desktop "surfer," looking for information. Address the needs of this group with very concise, targeted content.
- Repeat: Typically motivated by some sort of specific news or timely data. If your site has a large mobile return segment, ensure the most requested pages are available in as few clicks as possible. Consider providing short and easy to use URLs for deeper content and outliers.
- Urgent: Depending on the type of business, this could be the most important segment to target by addressing many "make or break" scenarios. Understand the goals of these customers and present information that meets those specific goals. Some features to consider include store locators, driving directions, order status, and product availability search.
Regardless of target segment, be sure to reduce the overall content to ensure usability. Publish only the bare minimum.
2. Optimize your site for mobile search
Mobile users also have unique needs in search, and they're likely looking for more-critical information. Sites that have been well-optimized for the mobile experience provide only the most useful information, such as directions and phone numbers, but marketers should consider the ways that users will get to the site.
Frequently, mobile users will use a browser homepage search engine to find your site with minimal keystrokes, driven by convenience rather than necessity. Naturally, search optimization is a key component of web marketing, and this tactic is possibly more important for mobile sites. The most popular search engines today all have mobile equivalents with separate submission processes. Let these engines know that you're ready to receive mobile traffic by explicitly submitting your site to the mobile search engines as well. More sophisticated optimization can be done through local SEO. While this is a complex topic, be sure to submit the site to the local equivalents of the major engines as well.
3. Paid search programs
Pay-per-click strategies should be tailored to the mobile experience as well. Rather than delivering your ads to all users, regardless of device, consider the specialized needs of mobile users. Many paid search networks, including Google AdWords, do not specifically deliver your ads to mobile search by default. This gives marketers the opportunity to create mobile-specific campaigns with targeted landing pages, which allows for easy analysis and tuning.
4. Mobile display advertising
Once the site has been appropriately optimized for the mobile experience, another valuable acquisition tactic is the use of distributed display ads, through networks that specifically deliver mobile advertising. Display advertising is a key part of an integrated mobile strategy, enabling you to engage users and expand reach.
5. SMS loyalty programs
SMS programs can be effective ways to engage mobile users and drive return visits to the main website or store. According to comScore, text messaging is the second most common activity among domestic subscribers, behind placing calls, so tactics leveraging this behavior can produce some high-yield mobile marketing tools.
7-Eleven convenience stores recently ran a campaign encouraging customers to send a text message to an SMS short code, and 7-Eleven responds by texting back a coupon code for a free beverage, thereby driving traffic to the store for other impulse buys. This is not a unique case, and other retailers report measurable success with programs of this type. Garden Fresh Corp. (a Red Door Interactive client), which operates the chains Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, recently tested an in-store SMS program that encouraged customers to join the restaurants' email distribution. This program was run through four stores in Florida, and the promotion offered participants a beverage coupon for redemption at checkout. During the first three months of the test, the program produced 1,282 sign-ups across the four test stores, and the company is evaluating program expansion based on learnings from the tests.
Although SMS short codes can be expensive to configure and maintain, a cost effective solution can be realized by partnering with vendors that offer a shared or leased short code. This route is highly recommended, especially for testing the efficacy of a particular program.