The deal with mobile

Mobile is such an elusive channel. Marketers don’t really know what to do with it– we’ve seen text marketing campaigns, text and banner ads on installed apps and mobile sites, etc. Mobile app development companies scramble to make the latest and greatest ad, only to be puzzled about how to monetize it and define measurement metrics behind it.

Why mobile is so a challenging channel to master is due to a few reasons. First, it has a short lifecycle– mobile phones and software upgrades are constantly brought to the market. It may seem that iPhones are the most popular smart phones in the market, what with its ubiquity among novice and serious users alike, but Android has a sizeable market as well, and Blackberry is still a player. There are only a few apps in the market that cater to all segments successfully. There is also a variety of carriers, with which customers have a variety of experiences dealing with customer service and reception issues. It takes a perfect storm of locating the platform for your product, a carrier that can effectively help you execute the service, and finding the audience who use their mobile phones heavily, as they are the most likely to engage with new updates, features and services on their phone.

Second, the short lifecycle means that new technology is constantly rolled out, and a lot of times, it is hard to gauge how consumers use the phone and feel about it. You have to keep on innovating your product, whether its a mobile phone, an app or an ad campaign. This all happens so fast that the ad campaign that you thought aligned with your objectives and are relevant for your consumers may have a lackluster performance because the consumers have fragmented and the market for your particular campaign on a particular app on a particular platform may just not be there anymore. Doing market research to understand consumers usually takes a long time– collecting data, analyzing it, comparing it norms that may not exist since its the technology may be so new there is no benchmarks yet to compare it to, and acting upon that data. By the time the process is completed, new products are launched in the market, and these products may be so radically different that it requires a new wave of research to understand its consumers, and if the technology is disruptive and innovative enough, its consumers may not be as apparent, and this involves definition and segmentation of the consumer base.

Third, mobile phones are very personal to the consumer. The nature of the device is its portability and its ability to render everybody who has it connected to the internet and their respective social circles. Many consumers store private information on their mobile phones– whether its their credit card number, birthdate, address, or some other confidential piece of information. They also download apps that have some utility or entertainment value, and discard (or ignore) ones that don’t address a need in their lives. Ads are usually frowned upon because it is interruptive to this personal experience they have with their phone. It would be wise for advertisers to employ permission marketing to their mobile campaigns. Offering something valuable that does not detract or hinder them from using their mobile phones to accomplish what they need to do is also critical.

I think there is a potential for mobile phones to be a channel that can target the consumer at the right time and place. People nowadays spend so much time on their phones– not just when using it for their basic purpose (communicating with others through call or text), but also while walking down the street, eating dinner, waiting for the train, shopping, etc. It is integrated with their lives, that many people feel naked and lacking something when they forget to bring their mobile phones with them. The way for advertisers is to tap into this integration and offer consumers something worthwhile that can make their lives easier and more enjoyable.

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