Mobile marketing holds a lot of promise once we overcome several technical and managerial obstacles, judging from yesterday’s Triangle AMA panel.
My take on the situation? Mobile marketing in 2010 sounds a lot like where online marketing was in 1997. Just like in the 1990s, there are many potential opportunities for growth. But we can’t let the new-technology glitter distract us from core marketing fundamentals: make a business case, provide a good user experience, and measure the ROI.
Couldn’t spare the time or the $40? Here’s my extended recap of the lunch-and-learn event in Raleigh, North Carolina. Cord Silverstein moderated a panel with marketing manager Amy Boaz, app developer Jeremy Cid, content developer and distributor John Conway, and mobile ad manager Tom Rouillard.
Analysis: 2010 is the New 1997
Here are some similarities I noticed between where online marketing was 12-15 years ago and the panelists’ description of mobile marketing today:
- Banner ads get high click-through due to novelty and lack of competition
- Many advertisers prefer CPM to CPC.
- ROI metrics are fuzzy
- Platform and browser dominance are constantly shifting
- Rich media options are available but expensive to implement
- People are jumping in without ensuring they have a business case first (brochureware websites in 1997 and mobile apps in 2010)
- Apple mobile devices are attracting attention, or perhaps hype (the iPad vs. the Newton PDA)
We might not have blinking marquee text or Hamster Dance, but bad landing pages are back, along with technology for tech’s sake. It seems like the technology caught up to 2010 but the marketing metrics and the user experience are stuck in the mid-1990s.
It’s not all the same, of course. Today’s mobile devices are fast and ubiquitous. Many people carry broadband internet access with them at all times. Hundreds of thousands of mobile apps let users accomplish almost anything under the sun on their device while they’re on the go. Micropayment systems let them buy media and other products nearly seamlessly. And the iPhone or Android mobile devices are much smaller than an Apple Newton (see above).
What’s the upshot for us as marketers? Mobile is coming fast. Cell phone providers have now made smartphones the free entry-level phone. In a printed report on the luncheon tables, left for AMA visitors, Capstrat user experience designer John Romano shares a key statistic:
“More than 50% of Americans will have smartphones in 2011 (according to Nielsen) that run apps and mobile web browsers.”
Considering 40% of new phones sold are smartphones, it sounds like mobile marketing is an undeniable opportunity in both the short term and the long term.
Top 5 Lessons from the TriAMA’s Panel on Mobile Marketing in May 2010
- Lenovo’s getting great clickthrough rates on mobile, but the technology is still too cumbersome to handle full-scale sales transactions via mobile devices. In those situations, the company measures alternate conversions so they can do non-mobile ‘remarketing’ followup in the future. (Amy Boaz)
- Don’t make a new mobile app just for the sake of having an app. Your app should enhance your customers’ experience with you. (Jeremy Cid)
- There’s a lot of demand for mobile apps from people who follow the news, especially in niche areas. WRAL’s new “report it” feature lets users submit breaking news tips and photos from the mobile app. (John Conway)
- Don’t ignore the landing page. If you send a viewer to a site that isn’t mobile-friendly…they have a back button. Consider the user’s entire experience. (Tom Rouillard)
- You still have to follow good marketing practices, by making a business case for your marketing investment and by solving a problem for the customer. (Cord Silverstein)
My Comments and Discussion
Mobile is clearly a few years away from maturing as a marketing channel. Youthful exuberance aside, mobile marketing doesn’t exist in an ROI-free alternate universe.
As marketers, we need to keep up with the changes and keep practicing good marketing–determine how best to connect with our customers, help them solve a problem, and find a way to make money at the same time.
It sounds like non-smartphones are dead, at least as far as most mobile marketers are concerned. I agree with Tom Rouillard’s “weak ROI” argument (in the detailed notes below), about why we shouldn’t necessarily devote resources to SMS-based users who don’t have mobile web.
But I agree with Amy Boaz, too: we need to tailor our mobile strategy to what our particular audience has. Considering the Obama campaign’s success using texts and Southwest Airlines’ new text/email updates system, I think SMS/text-based mobile marketing will be around for a while, at least on an opt-in basis.
It sounds like an important first step for any mobile campaign is to determine your specific audience’s capabilities. If they all have smartphones and love mobile apps, then an expensive app might be the right way to reach people. If they all have older “feature phones” without web access, then maybe an SMS strategy might be better. Clearly, it’s not one-size-fits-all.
As I wrote this recap, I sometimes struggled with what to call the person interacting with mobile content. Are they a user, browser, viewer, reader, consumer, or something else?
I suspect we’ll also get a mobile version of magazines’ reader reply cards. If someone wants to learn more about a product or service they see advertised on their mobile device, they could request info by clicking the ad and confirming a password.
If the iTunes Store has their credit card info, surely we can create a system to quickly and securely submit info for opt-in offers. It would be like a seamless inbound version of mobile tagging with QR Codes. Certainly, there are some privacy issues to address. (If someone’s already doing this, let me know.)
Want more? Read on for the details, and please share your comments below.
Mobile Marketing: Detailed Notes via Triangle AMA
- Moderator Cord Silverstein asked: What is mobile? Answer: For Lenovo, mobile is anything portable: WAP, smart phone, iPad, etc.
- It’s important to distinguish between mobile advertising (SMS, display ads, ads in text search) and mobile marketing (PR, media placement, interaction with the brand)
- Cord asked: What’s working and what’s not? Answer: It’s a challenge to create a good user experience on smartphones, and mobile web, andapps.
- They’re getting 3x the click-through rate (CTR) compared to online banners, which is terrific, although this is likely to plummet over time (she remembers when it was great to get online banner CTR’s of 5%, and then 1%, and now 0.1%).
- It’s still too hard to do full-scale transactions online (for Lenovo, selling computers and accessories).
- They’re measuring alternate conversions in the meantime (email signups, contacting the call center, becoming a Fan via social media, etc.), where Lenovo can do “remarketing” via future followup, even if they can’t easily capture the purchase transaction now.
- There’s less competition on the screen, which makes it easier to get browsers’ attention (for now)
- Notable trends:
- There’s more and more good content, which is good news for publishers. Even if old methods are fading, now they can use tablets and similar.
- Likely trend toward [double] opt-in on individual ads (“did you mean to click on this?”), which may reduce CTR but which will increase the quality of leads.
- Trend toward rich media (for instance, capturing an email address in a banner). But that’s expensive to implement.
- Question from Cord: What’s next? Answer: It’s not a matter of if we’re going to do mobile marketing, it’s a question of how.
- I asked: What about reaching people on non-smartphones, considering smartphones are still less than half the market?
- She noted the feature phones (“dumb phones,” without true mobile web) as a group still exist. You can create WAP sites to reach them.
- The key is to think ahead of time: What does your audience use? Evaluate your mobile marketing project against KPI’s about what your audience can see.
- SMS is 100% available across the board, and it’s great for opt-in offers.
Jeremy Cid, Co-Founder and Marketing Director at Bee Appi in Cary, NC
- Moderator Cord Silverstein asked: What is mobile? Answer: A platform to do more with less.
- In the future, things will be more integrated. For instance, your GPS will read you your incoming emails as it gives you turn by turn directions down the highway.
- Cord asked: What are some of the pitfalls of app development? Answer: There’s lots of competition. The Apple app store has 200,000 applications, so the odds of a client’s particular app becoming hugely popular are very low. The solution includes building brand recognition: own a specific niche with your brand (e.g., education apps or apps for the iPhone or Android or Blackberry).
- Cord asked: How do you make your apps stand out?
- Good apps aren’t cheap, especially if it requires 100% proprietary programming. Customers don’t realize how expensive they can be. In California, top-notch app developers charge $125/hour.
- You need a good marketing strategy to stand out, considering there are 200,000 apps from 30,000 app developers in the Apple app store.
- You need an ad budget. You won’t get attention for free.
- Don’t make a new app just for apps’ sake. Your app should enhance your customers’ experience with you.
- Cord asked: What’s next? Answer: The iPad is likely to have unexpected benefits. Apple is marketing it as a Kindle competitor. But with its big screen, it might work for video conferencing and other applications.
- Audience member asked: What is the age targeting for apps? Answer: It’s all over the map; there are kids’ books apps and there are apps targeting business executives.
- I asked: What about reaching people on non-smartphones, considering smartphones are still less than half the market? Jeremy said non-web phones are dwindling, while smart phone uptake is growing fast.
- Pre-created libraries, especially for location-based apps, make it easier for smaller mom & pop companies to offer coupons and similar, without having to pay someone to develop an app from the ground up.
John Conway, Director of Creative Services at WRAL.com in Raleigh, NC
- Moderator Cord Silverstein asked: What is mobile? It’s not one size fits all. There is more niche targeting than ever.
- Now on to the second generation of the WRAL mobile app. First generation: Ensuring readable delivery of most-desired content via the mobile web: weather, local news, and breaking news. Second generation: Now, it’s microniche sites, like Go Ask Mom and their high school athletics app.
- With WRAL’s new HighSchoolOT app, fans in the stands at a high school basketball game can upload photos from their picture phone, and within minutes, the photos are live on the website.
- You have to step back and ask: What’s the problem we’re solving?
- If you have an app, make it easy for your customers and readers to find!
- People want mobile apps. WRAL has gotten 55,000 downloads of its app since releasing it 18 months ago. The second generation included a new “report it” feature, which lets people submit news.
- On the recent Primary Night, more readers saw the election results on mobile devices (including mobile web and the app) than from traditional computers.
- There’s an issue of monetizing content. As someone noted, the New York Times is creating a wall to block non-subscribers from accessing news content. The Wall Street Journal can restrict access because it has content no one else has, and readers will pay what the newspaper wants them to. The risk is that an ad-supported open model can steal the market share instantly from the “moat” model.
Tom Rouillard, Operations Manager at News Over Wireless in Raleigh, NC
- Moderator Cord Silverstein asked: What is mobile? It’s an intensely personal experience. You can engage with the end user on a one-on-one basis when they have the time: at dinner, commuting, and more. And it’s constant: people have their phone with them all the time: in their purse, in their pocket, on their hip.
- The mobile consumer is looking for information, and they’re starting to look for deals.
- ROI and metrics are getting better. There’s a big difference in mobile advertising versus marketing. In non-mobile online ads, advertisers are used to metrics like unique users and clickthrough rate (CTR). Those are just now maturing on mobile.
- Mobile is growing enormously on New Over Wireless’ network of local TV station partners. In one year, from Q1’09 to Q1’10, traffic and fill rate rose 800%.
- News Over Wireless (N.O.W.) works with TV stations nationwide, not just WRAL. Some stations are selling-out their mobile inventory.
- Local advertisers (lawyers, car dealers) have preferred CPM (impressions) ads and sponsorships. National advertisers have used CTR and CPC.
- Advertisers aren’t paying enough attention to the landing page. They aren’t asking themselves: Is this useful? Does it look good? Consider the whole process for the end user. If you send a viewer to a non-mobile-friendly site…they have a back button.
- The Mobile Marketing Association still needs to set standards for iPad advertising. And then there’s pricing; Steve Jobs said we’ll take 40% and you’ll be happy with 60%.
- We’ll see better rich media ads, such as a recent Jaguar mobile ad. It opened a video as an overlay, which browsers could watch and then close without affecting their underlying browsing experience. But good rich media integration is very expensive. You’ll see it from Jaguar, with lots of money, not from Joe’s Pizza Shop.
- Cord asked: What’s on your radar? Answer: Android is small but growing fast.
- After being out for one year, Android typically has 1% share on the network of News Over Wireless (N.O.W.) partner TV stations. However, some have reached 8% of traffic via Android.
- But neither Android nor iPhone matches the Blackberry platform, which accounts for 50-60% of the handset market share (for N.O.W.).
- Notably, 70-75% of mobile web browsing for News Over Wireless is via smartphones.
- People are shifting to smartphone apps, but it’s important to find ways to monetize people visiting via the mobile web.
- Next trend: In-app sales. For instance, a one-time payment of 99 cents to access primary [election] results. Micropayment services like the iTunes store make these transactions easy. Instead of entering your full payment information, you just confirm your password.
- People will move from CPM to CPC (national advertisers are already there, mostly). News Over Wireless is pushing local stations to push mobile ads. So far, 80% of those that can, do. N.O.W. is shooting for 100%.
- I asked: What about reaching people on non-smartphones, considering smartphones are still less than half the market?
- Answer: Tom sees a weak ROI, considering feature phones (“dumb phones” without true mobile web) are dwindling in number.
- When he’s at a restaurant, he observes what phones kids are holding. He sees a whole lot of personal BlackBerries.
- Verizon’s $29 phone is now a BlackBerry. The recent “free upgrade” option was a Droid, if he got a $25 data plan.
- Feature phones are a small group and they’re going away.
- Regarding location-based apps, they did a test for a hotel chain that would tell users, “You are five miles from the nearest Such-and-such Inn.” User could click for directions or call for more information. A similar application might be “weather where you are,” which automatically updates to give a forecast for your current location.
- National advertisers can potentially do location-based targeting, but they aren’t necessarily requesting the lat/long coordinates to actually do it.
Cord Silverstein, EVP of Interactive Communications at Capstrat in Raleigh, NC
- Mobile version of Buzzword Bingo: The ‘Apple rule.’ If a panelist mentions “Apple,” “iPad,” “Steve Jobs,” or similar more than three times, the audience can throw Capstrat’s Nerf foam darts at the panel. And the audience did, several times. With the rubber band launcher, they went pretty far.
- As with any marketing, you still have to be sure you understand your target market (to John’s point about solving a problem and to Jeremy’s point about not making an app for apps’ sake).
Lots to digest, right? What were your biggest takeaways from the Triangle AMA’s mobile marketing panel?