What are Key Trends for Mobile Marketing?

A general observation of the people that are your customers, prospects, friends and associates would probably tell you that mobile technology has become a permanent fixture in our culture. The fact that people are using mobile devices in order to access the Internet is not going away anytime soon. In fact, we can expect it to take over more of the conversation about how we communicate, do business and socialize.

Of course that means that as small business owners, we will need to make sure that we are in front of our customers and clients where they choose to be. If the key statistic is correct, and there is every reason to believe that it is, consumers stay within a 3 foot range of their mobile device 24 hours a day. Therefore, any effective marketing strategy must incorporate mobile devices. It's going to be important for you to know your target market extremely well.

Naturally, this is no secret to you, if you have been in business any length of time. However, knowing your customer now means knowing how much time they spend on their mobile device. It means finding out where they "hang out." It means discovering how they transact their business, such as banking and product purchases. And it means knowing how they entertain themselves during their leisure time. If you don't know these things about your particular niche and customer, then you may be doing mobile marketing in a haphazard way.

Understanding how your client communicates is also important. This is especially true when it comes to using a mobile device. Think about your particular demographic. Do you think that those that find you and do business with you use SMS Text Messaging? Do they use instant messaging? Do they use e-mail in the same way that they do on their desktop computer?

Do they use their communication on their mobile device for their work projects or do they use them primarily for leisure? These are all very important questions for you to be able to answer.. Every demographic is going to be different. Your product and service offerings are going to be different, even from your competitors. Therefore, you will need to get to know the habits of your prospects and customers extremely well.

Of course, this means that, just as you have probably been tracking the traffic on your business website, you'll need to start tracking the results of any mobile marketing campaign that you are doing. This includes understanding the open rates of your SMS messages. It includes how much action people are taking on the placement of your QR codes. It means understanding how many people are receiving and then executing their mobile coupons. Every aspect of your mobile marketing campaigns should be tracked and evaluated on a regular basis.

New Opportunities

Mobile marketing represents a great opportunity for those companies willing to invest the time to understand the patterns of their demographic. Those companies will be able to understand what kind of messaging will work best for their customers and clients while they actually have their mobile device in their hands.

As a result of this, you're probably noticing that large corporations, as well as small and middle- market companies, are spending more resources on mobile advertising. Industry statistics indicate that mobile marketing, as a whole, is a $1 billion industry focus. It is expected that this will double by 2014 and continue to increase.

This is a recognition that the transition that people are making between socializing, entertainment, work and communication is now taking place all on a mobile device. It is quite possible that a person could spend an entire day with their mobile device in front of them, without the need to read a newspaper, turn on their personal computer or "watch" the news.

Increased Smartphone Use

You would agree that smartphone use has been increasing over the last five years. While this does not always mean that smartphone access to your business and/or your website has increased, it does mean that consumers are possibly beginning to look at these devices as their first choice for computing.
And this fact alone should have implications for your business, whether you have begun implementing mobile marketing elements or not. Recent studies indicate that over 70% of smartphone users find retailers, compare prices, and search for product details with their mobile devices. Of course, most of this activity is happening while these individuals are on the premises of the business that they are looking to make their purchase from.

Much of this increased activity has to do with the increased ease of attaining smartphones. In 2010, pricing models have been transitioning from that of the traditional cell phone to making sure that individuals get a product they like enough to use data on it. It is this data usage that carriers are leveraging in order to generate profit.

Therefore, you've probably seen companies like T-Mobile offer expensive and elaborate smartphones such as the Google Nexxus, iPhone or iPad for $0 upfront costs. The customer agrees to make payments over the course of 24 months or two years. The charge for the device is made convenient by adding it directly to the actual phone and data plan. This is based on the fact that it is unlikely that consumers who desire to keep a device with them 24 hours a day would fail to continue making payments.

In addition to this, the retailer is also offering its customers the ability to upgrade their device every 6 to 12 months. This allows them to keep up with the most recent technology. While T-Mobile and other companies do this to engender loyalty in their customer base, the effect on the industry is dramatic. Carriers like T-Mobile have basically assured individuals that they can carry a smartphone without the necessity of having to make the purchase of $500-$600 upfront.

As a result, consumers can own and use a smartphone for little to no up-front investment. This assures the carriers that users will work to make sure that they keep their contracts to use the service.  

This factor alone is almost certain to increase the demand for mobile devices and Internet access over the next decade.

Technology companies such as Verizon are also accommodating individuals based on their desire to have and hold this technology. By providing increased bandwidth in their homes, the company acknowledges that it is likely that a family could have one or several mobile devices that accessing the Internet through their home network. Once again, a technical understanding of what is happening isn't as necessary as understanding that smartphone use is increasing and being accommodated by technology companies in order to build their own marketing funnel.

While these accommodations may not yet affect your business directly, they are an indication of the fact that consumers are being left with increasingly fewer reasons to be away from their mobile device. Assuming that they will be accessing your marketing funnel using their mobile devices is vital. How will they be able to be helped by your company? Will they find it easy or more difficult?

Optimization of Websites and Applications for Mobile

One trend that may go unnoticed, is what businesses must do regarding the changes needing to be made to websites to accommodate mobile devices. While there is no statistic based on research as to how many companies have made their websites mobile optimized, there is definitely an increase in concern and discussion among businesses about this.

It has been such a concern, that search engine giant Google has had to weigh in on what businesses need to do in order to meet the demands of their mobile customers. Of course, Google's guidance has primarily been about how to be found in search engines. The fact that they have indicated that mobile design is preferable to other forms, shows that this topic is one that webmasters want to see settled.

There are two factors that are important to note about this statement being made by Google. The first, most obvious statement, is about responsive design its self. A website that is considered to be responsive, changes its operation based on what kind of device accesses the site.

For example, a company can have a certain set of parameters just for their desktop PC users. Typically, the companies want to make sure that individuals find the maximum amount of information, and that they find their experience to be pleasurable, or at the very least positive. 

Companies, as a result, utilize a number of special graphics along with their branding, to give the users of their website the kind of experience that would make them want to come back and do business again.

This is substantially different for their mobile customers. The objective, while still to provide a good user experience, is executed with a minimal number of graphics. It is also executed with just enough branding so that the customer actually knows who they're doing business with. A responsive web design allows the site visitor to land on your web presence and be shown the kind of page most conducive to their device. In other words, the website responds to each device that accesses it.

In recent years, the solution had been to redirect a website visitor to a mobile device when the technology "recognized" that the user was a mobile one. You might have seen it from time to time that a website might look a little different in terms of its address. You may have seen the web address “m.website.com”. The “m” was an indication that you (the visitor) were redirected by the site to a mobile version of the website that your device would be able to read with ease. However, most users, as well as decision makers at Google, felt that this was a less than optimal experience. It was, according to engineers and experts, better if the company invested in website technology that responded instead of redirecting the actual site visitor.

But there is yet another aspect of Google’s statement regarding responsive web design that’s important to note. While the company has made explicit statements about the fact that this kind of website isn’t factored into their search results, some of the evidence in the current search statistics seems to reflect otherwise. There is some evidence, that there is a favoring of websites (in Google search) that have undertaken responsive web design in the actual results.  However, critics of this theory feel as if Google's engineers have not been honest and/or forthcoming about whether or not responsive design affects search results.

When a user is redirected from the standard website to another (a mobile duplicate with the “m” in front), there is a time factor and lag involved in this process. This means that Google could be sending individuals to websites and pages that are and prove to be a sub optimal experience due to the time it actually takes the searcher to get to a page to get the information that they want. In effect, a redirected page loads slower.

What this means to you as a small business owner is that you will need to be aware that the industry trend is to move away from websites that do not respond to the browser of the device user. If you haven’t invested in responsive design, you need to be aware that it is becoming a centerpiece of how business will be done on the web.

While that doesn't mean that this will all change drastically again in the next few years, it does mean that you will need to address this, so that a customer that comes to your website can stay as long as they need to in order to make a favorable buying decision.

Mobile applications are another part of the website experience for your particular buyer and/or prospect. If your company depends on the user being able to engage in some kind of activity on your website, it will be difficult to do this, assuming that they are accessing the Internet from a mobile device using a regular web browser.

As a result, you could follow the practice of a number of businesses that have created their own mobile application. A mobile application is a piece of software that users download to their devices and are then able to interact with a specific company.

For example, accessing mobile banking using a web browser is possible, yet difficult for the user to complete their transactions using them. This is the case, even with the stripped-down number of graphics that a web designer uses for the typical mobile website.

As a result, banks are giving their customers access to mobile applications, which are free to download. These applications are little pieces of software that users download to their mobile devices. This gives them just enough software and interface to transact business with the bank. The connection between the application and the bank is more secure as it does not go through the mobile browsing process.

In order to get perspective on how this trend is going, one statistic to know would be the number of app downloads being done worldwide on an annual basis. The most recent gathering of statistics by the Gartner Corporation, indicated that mobile app stores have seen downloads increase from 64 billion from 102 billion. Free applications account for over 85% of the application downloads.

App downloads are being treated less like computer software than you might think. The fact that the codes are little bits of software placed on the computing device, would cause a business owner to ask whether or not this makes a difference if the user does or does not use the app. This is a valid concern, and is a good question to ask.

The key to understanding the significance of mobile apps can be found in its usage even more than the number of downloads. In an article in 2013, industry analyst Smart Insights, published an article that stated that app usage dwarfs the use of mobile browsers for those that are active with their devices. In fact, consumers spend over 80% of their time on mobile apps versus mobile websites. This statistic is true regardless of platform--Windows, IOS or Android.

What these trends in mobile websites and mobile applications means to your business is that consumer convenience is of the utmost importance in creating the experience you want them to have with your company while online. What mobile apps and mobile websites do, is to make it convenient to do business with your company. It gives your customers the ability to transact business and do research while they are on the go and away from their home and/or office.

Therefore, you will need to evaluate both your website and the process that buyers go through in order to have access to everything that your company provides. Are there ways that you can make the user experience on a mobile device a smoother one? Is the user experience one that will cause them to want to come back or might it tell them to look for another competitor?

The decision on whether or not to create your own mobile app, is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It is one where you will need carefully evaluate how your customer spends their time online and what they respond to. Then consider where to place your emphasis and resources in creating the right mobile experience.

Mobile and Social

One of the factors that makes the Gartner research a call to interpret properly, is the fact that much of the app time span by consumers is being done on a social network: a spoke.  In fact, in the recent edition of even return, the industry analyst indicated that over half of the access to social networks is being granted to mobile devices. Therefore, the vast majority of activity that you are engaging in (if you are engaging on social networks) is taking place with the user from their mobile device.

This is very important for businesses to know as they create their social strategy. Companies that rely heavily on content and sharing in order to get new customers to opt into their list, should recognize that this activity is being directed on a relatively small screen. Therefore, as a business owner, you'll need to consider whether or not your demographic of customer is likely to use their mobile device to sign up for your e-mail list.

While every marketing decision you make will need to be tested, you should assume that social activity on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and even YouTube, is just as likely to be taking place on a mobile device as it is on a desktop or laptop PC. There are indications that the dramatic increase in activity on social networks such as Facebook, are starting to level off. Consumers are finding ways to socialize on their mobile devices using other means.

However, this does not mean that you should not have a social strategy in place. If your goal is to capture audiences on social media, you will need to make sure that you are utilizing digital media to its fullest. This could mean that you are likely to get and keep your customers’ attention if you are using images that are carefully selected. These images should grab the attention of your readers/viewer to get them to pay attention to the message that comes after.

In addition to this, you want to make sure that you are making full use of both audio and video. Audio allows you to get users to share in-depth conversation and information that your company is using in order to promote its business. There is some question as to whether or not this kind of media will actually attract the attention of other users.

Video, on the other hand, is very likely to attract attention. Companies are getting more savvy in uploading their video to social networks and viewing platforms for the networks. They're doing this with front page thumbnails that jar the user out of their regular pattern of viewing. In some cases, the thumbnail is not an indication of what the actual video is about. It simply is a scene that grabs attention.

These are two activities that aren't made easy on a mobile device. If you are sharing a considerable amount of text, assuming that users are going to share your content, the evidence is that this is unlikely to happen.

The Rise of Proximity Marketing

In the early days of the increasing popularity of mobile device use, companies began experimenting with location-based services. Called proximity marketing, companies were using the GPS signal inside of mobile devices in order to trigger advertising on that device. This may come in the form of a push notification to the user, a text message, or in some cases, an e-mail. Of the three, e-mail was the least effective. Primarily, this is because proximity marketing has always been a "real-time" strategy.

Of course, companies that use proximity marketing most effectively are selective about how they use this tool in media. They tend to know their demographic extremely well, and understand whether or not their customers would appreciate receiving a message based on their location. For those customers that see privacy as a significant issue, proximity marketing will probably not be a preferable way of reaching them. Companies will need to make sure that the value that they are delivering to their customers as they go through their testing process is high.

What kinds of information can you deliver using proximity marketing. The companies that are most effective in using proximity marketing tend to do so through SMS messages with coupon codes that give the user either a premium or discount. Other companies are able to deliver product information and links as well as promotions for future products and events.

Although the process is simple to understand, the technology that is implemented is fairly sophisticated. The programming must determine which users have given their permission to receive messaging, what kind of device they are using and the appropriate method of delivery. The business owner will find that the process is relatively invisible to them. They will be determining the specials and the actual advertisement and promotions.

Local Search Activity

One trend that business owners should find encouraging is that mobile devices seem to be encouraging users to look for products and services in their local area using search engines. Once again, this will be another place where businesses must consider making sure that their website design is responsive. On the one hand, they will want to have a conventional website that will rank in search engines. In other words, their website will be found for those searching for the subject.

What has happened over the last 2 to 3 years, is that the formula that search engines have been using in order to determine website ranking has been changing. The formulas that had at one time been based solely on the way that keywords were placed on pages, the way links were created and the way websites were structured. While those factors still have some relevance in how often these are found in their local area, they no longer have the same weight that they used to and there are considerable more relevant factors now that are a part of a local search.

In particular, one factor is the way that content is created. Although there are no humans evaluating every search query and every webpage, search engine companies are getting more sophisticated in determining what they feel is the best possible content for search users to read. As a result, the evidence proves that the guide it has been given by search engines is actually a good match for what actually is happening during searches. Search engine analysts have stated that content should be written for the user. No longer should content be written in order to pile in keywords in order to make their content relevant.

Another factor that plays into local search is event based content. Companies that create the kind of content that doubles as an event that should be attended by users, are gaining the benefit of authoritative linking as well as relevant treatment in the search engines. As a result, your company should be educating your client base whenever possible. This will probably mean announcing that you have webinars, live events and Google hangouts (to be discussed later).
Companies that are able to create this kind of content and make it relevant to mobile users are finding that their content is being favored by search engine companies.

Reputation Management

Another factor that search engine companies have discovered is that a considerable number of consumers rely on reviews to make their decision about what services to purchase. And they have been adapting their algorithm accordingly.

In particular, search engine company Google is providing companies that have good reputations with their customers, as indicated by reviews, favored position in the search engines. What this looks like is having an average of 4 to 5 stars in reviews on Google's online business directory pages.

The relevance to mobile marketing is clear. Users are seeking information about products and services while they are on the go. They want to be able to look at a glance to get recommendations on what they should be seeking in addition to just finding out what is in their local area.

This is a shift that search engines have been making in order to a comment date mobile users. In order to take advantage of this factor, your company will need to pay attention to those things that consumers find helpful. In addition to this, you will need to pay strict attention to your online reviews and how customers are reporting what they are experiencing at your company. This is an important element in local search as it relates to mobile users.

Video Marketing

While video marketing's rise in popularity isn't necessarily directly related to mobile computing, the trends are just as pronounced on devices as they are on personal computers. In other words, mobile users have a desire to experience video content and increasing rates over and above things that they would want or need to read. As a result, you will need to make sure to create video content that is engaging the mobile user and giving them the opportunity to make decisions that would be favorable to your company.

One of the benefits of video marketing within the YouTube platform is that when the description is written in detail, the video content is ranks in the search engine results as high as any typical website content. Currently, search engine giant Google is favoring some video content as much as it does some websites. 

YouTube has become an effective platform in video marketing, as all platforms--Android, Windows and IOS, have integrated apps that allow users to click on links from different applications on their mobile device to land within YouTube.

Therefore, consider the possibility of creating links within certain pages of your mobile device having users to click on them, and then experience video content on YouTube. Furthermore, envision what you could do if users would then be able to experience the rest of your video content conveniently placed within your video channel. In other words, video is central to both searchers/mobile device users.

Google Hangouts

Companies are utilizing Google’s multimedia broadcast system called Hangouts. They're using them as leverage in their business in order to provide live streaming information to their customer base. And they are also using them in order to connect staff members inside of their companies.

A key factor in this process is that Hangouts are mobile enabled. In other words, users can experience live streaming multimedia content from their mobile device. In addition to this, broadcasters can send live streaming content from their mobile device. This means that there are no limits to being able to share which multimedia content might be of benefit to your target customer. Savvy marketers are using Google Hangouts in order to create video testimonials with their customers.

The reason that Google Hangouts are important with respect to video testimonials is that they are instantly uploaded to YouTube. That means that there is a high likelihood that these videos will both rank in search, and provide mobile users a convenient option to view your video content. Companies are leveraging this tool in order to create what users will find helpful. Some have leveraged this tool even further by taking advantage of Google’s favoring mechanism for both events and video content. These events ranked even higher in search on the local level.

The Growth in Influence of Mobile Computing

Google’s focus on fusing their search capabilities with mobile technology will be a major influence on businesses as time progresses.  But make no mistake, Google, even as large and influential as it is, will have no choice but to work in the same direction as mobile’s influence.  Its users (and your customers) have both directly and indirectly demanded it.

On average, typical mobile device users look at their device up to 35 times per day and no less than 20.  This means that while communication and research is happening, so is decision making.  If your company is in position while this decision making is happening, then you will be able to move with your consumers.  To ignore this fact will be to move against the evidence.

This is a move toward increasing convenience.  Consumers are demanding to be able to do more with their computing on their terms.  Their preference is not to have to wait for information, nor is it to have to wait for access.  They want to be able to get all of the information they need, on demand.
Technology is accommodating them.  Devices are being made that grow more powerful and sophisticated.  It’s easy to expect that what we are currently using on our desktop in power and resources will soon be in our hands.   As discussed earlier, the trend is that this technology is being made more , not less affordable.  Companies such as Sprint, ATT, T-Mobile and others are incentivized to make sure that we have devices so that we will continue to use and desire data plans.
Even when consumers use what is considered to be older technology (e-mail), they’re doing it increasingly on their mobile device.  There is no end to the increase of mobile computing. 

What this means for your business is that positioning is critical in all five elemental areas as it fits your strategy: 1) SMS, 2) Coupons, 3) Mobile Websites, 4) Mobile Apps and QR Codes.  This is the starting point for acclimating your company to meet your customer where they are. 

What the future will hold for marketing is anyone’s guess.  We do know that what is slow in adoption in older generations has been fully embraced by younger ones.   In fact, it is fair to say that what is now called “mobile marketing” will soon be termed simply marketing.  It will be as commonplace as the devices themselves.

Not only must businesses implement the elements mentioned above, but they must also rethink foundation principles as they’re altered by mobile computing.  Can a company’s unique selling proposition change based on how they implement mobile?  Can a company think differently about their customer lifetime value?  What will a contact database look like…will it be text or email?  What will it mean to generate PR if there is less emphasis on television and radio? What will media advertising look like--will it remain cost prohibitive or will it be too cheap to ignore?  Businesses will be rethinking the way that marketing has been done since the internet took its place in popularity.  When that happens, what will be the next game changing innovation on the horizon?

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