On the M-train: Mobile Mover or Mired Marketer?

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Mobile marketing is moving faster than the high speed rail that will soon whisk tourists, students, entrepreneurs and more between state's two main hubs and on to world-class Chicago. It's now time for you to get on the M-train before it leaves you behind. (Are you listening Oconomowoc?)

In my last blog posting, I wrote about one technique for mobile marketing — QR Codes — but this isn't the only way to get your marketing moving and mobile. Smart marketers are seeing the writing on the wall now that almost 30% of Americans have dropped their landline services. Smartphone sales are exploding with Nielsen projection that they will represent almost 50% of the mobile phone market by Q3 of 2011.

Not only are consumers shifting to smartphones, they are rapidly acquiring other web enabled devices like Apple's iPad as part of their technology armamentarium. eMarketer is estimating that 27.6% of the American population is now accessing the Internet with a mobile device and that by 2014 this number will increase to 44.1%. They're using their mobile devices for a wide range of purposes including education, entertainment, shopping, communication and socializing.

MCommerce Daily reports that current mobile commerce revenues of $2.5 billion will grow by a factor of four in just the next year. This data is supported by research from SmartRevenue that found 15% of smartphone users have made a purchase through their device and 25% have used their smartphone to comparison shop while in-store.

What does this mean to your business?
Depending on the nature of your business, you'll want to explore several mobile marketing options to find the best fit with your business objectives — whether they are to improve sales , build your brand or provide better customer service. Your mobile options broadly fit within one of these 3 buckets:

  1. Mobile Websites
  2. Mobile Apps — iPhone, iPad, Android, Other
  3. Mobile Messaging — SMS, MMS, Location-based services, Other

Let's take a look at each of these in a bit more depth…

Mobile Websites
The limited screen real estate on mobile devices and slower download speeds require that most sites be re-developed for more effective rendering and viewing. Adobe Scene7 recently conducted research that found mobile websites to be at the center of any mobile marketing initiative. In fact, 80% of respondents to their survey had or were implementing a mobile website.

Consumers on the go are looking for fast access to content like store/business locations, reviews, inventory availability, phone numbers with click to call, easy and accurate search functionality and price checking while they are shopping. Your relevant content and functions of this sort needs to be easily accessible with their mobile device. This means developing an information architecture and usability strategy that places the most used and useful content at the top of your mobile site, providing check boxes or other simplified selection tools, minimizing text entry requirements and reducing the amount of scrolling. You can test the mobile friendliness of your site by using mobiReady, a testing tool.

You'll also want to make sure to optimize your mobile site for search engine findability and ranking. Since Google indexes, the lower number of mobile sites separately, there is an opportunity for mobile movers to get high rankings in this rapidly growing space.

Consider registering a .mobi domain along with your .com or other domain names, for your mobile site. For an example of a local .mobi website check out Milwaukee's Irish Fest.

Mobile Apps
Mobile applications are big business with hundreds of thousands developed, billions downloaded and billions of dollars spent. Research2Guidance is estimating that mobile apps will generate $15 billion by 2013 according to Mobile Marketing Watch.

Your challenge is to decide if the app strategy fits with your mobile initiatives, and if so, how and what apps to create, sponsor, sell or advertise on that engage customers and support your business objectives.

During a recent eMarketer webinar, the speaker discussed how Kraft has created a very successful mobile recipe and menu planning app called the iFood Assistant that they sell for $.99. Another example can be seen in the new Netflix iPhone App that allows subscribers to download 17,000 videos for anywhere/anytime viewing.

If you're pursuing the app market, a key question to ask is what platform(s) to use to reach your target audience. Apple's iPhone started the stampede and continues to be a leader, but its sole carrier strategy and the effective execution of Android devices has opened up the marketplace for Android apps. At the time this was written, Androlib, an Android related site, estimates that 1.4 million Android Apps have already been downloaded and that over 100,000 Android apps have been created. The rapid uptake of the iPad is generating all sorts of additional app opportunities for the savvy marketer.

Mobile Messaging
Once you have your mobile web site, you might consider developing a mobile messaging strategy using text (SMS) or video (MMS — multimedia messaging service) to reach your target audience. Text messages have a higher open rate then e-mail messages (98% vs. 22% according to Tatango). Given the opt-in nature of text communication and the potential to link to specific offers on your mobile site, the potential return on your investment is high.

To get into this game, you'll need to develop and execute a plan to get consumers to opt-in to providing their cell phone numbers for messages from you. They'll need to see real value for this engagement to take place.

Once they're part of your list, you'll need to develop the appropriate messaging strategy including frequency, offer, time of day, etc. You should also consider adding text response capability, so that consumers can do things like text a five digit number for the nearest store location.

Much like high speed rail, the mobile train is picking up speed and you want to make sure that you're on the M-train.

Does your company have a mobile app or mobile site you'd like to tout? Drop me a line at pgibler@connectingdots.com and I'll review and post submissions in my next blog here at IBMadison.

To find out more about trends, techniques and resources for your marketing strategies and tactics follow me on Twitter @thewebchef. To track developments in mobile marketing you'll want to follow my Twitter mobile marketing list of over 400 players in this space.

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