Was 2015 the year that marketing became mobile-first?

16th Nov 2015

So far, 2015 has exceeded expectations with regards to the meteoric rise of mobile as a marketing channel. Not only does it continue to drive sector-wide digital transformation but brands that have taken the plunge and invested in mobile are starting to see significant returns.

In 2014, Forrester predicted a mobile technology arms race and it seems that this has certainly been the case. According to the Adobe Mobile Marketing Survey, 30% of US companies are spending upward of $10 million on apps and mobile web. In the UK, a report by eMarketer revealed that the overall digital category ad spend on mobile devices was expected to rise 45% this year to £3.3bn.

And the statistics keep on coming: mobile usage is up (55% of all retail internet minutes in the UK are spent on mobile devices, according to Interactive Media in Retail Group), app downloads are increasing (25 billion more downloads registered at the Apple Store between June 2014-June 2015) and a third of all online sales are placed via mobile.

“More and more brands are putting mobile first, and actively embracing mobile marketing. In fact, some start-ups are starting mobile-only,” says Chris Minas, board member for the Mobile Marketing Association UK (MMA) and founding partner of award-winning mobile agency Nimbletank. “This is because an increasing number of customers’ live their daily lives and spend vast amounts of time on mobile, particularly in apps, brands – many of whom were slow to react - have to take this trend seriously and divert budget to mobile.”

“Mobile is now an essential part of any digital marketing strategy,” agrees Ruth Clarke, commercial director at full-service digital agency Studio Six. “Digital marketing allows highly personalised experiences in a multichannel environment and taps into people’s behaviour and interests. Mobile is perfect for this, as we know that 94% of smartphone owners have their device within arms reach 24/7.”

What’s hot?

So what are the mobile marketing trends that have emerged in 2015?

One trend Clarke has noticed is the proliferation of customer mobile deals. “Shoppers are keen to find a good deal and the best value and if over 90% of users are searching for coupons then you can’t ignore this opportunity,” she says. Boots for example, encourage app downloads by offering more points which can be redeemed in store or online, creating synergy for the user as well as rewards.

Elsewhere, instant messaging continues to gain traction as a marketing tool. According to the Guardian, in 2013 IM overtook texting in the UK, with 160 billion instant ‘chat’ messages sent, up from 57 billion the previous year. Predictions are now looking at over 300 billion for 2015.

“During last year’s London Fashion Week, Burberry partnered with Twitter to let fans from all over the world access the show in real-time. It also became the first luxury brand to sell products through Twitter’s ‘Buy Now’ feature,” says Clarke. More and more brands this year gained wider exposure through experimenting with technology. “Burberry is a leader in combining digital and fashion and has recently collaborated with LINE messaging app to live stream the Burberry show to its 180 million-plus users. A brilliant example of a multichannel online campaign as the music played on the catwalk was also available to download as soon as the show ended.”

Ray Pun, the strategic marketing director for mobile solutions at Adobe, pin-pointed ten trends for mobile on his blog back in January. “The three that are certainly resonating with brands at the moment are app/mobile web investment, mobile A/B testing and mobile advertising which is set to go stratospheric,” says Jamie Brighton, product and industry marketing manager responsible for product marketing for the Adobe Marketing Cloud in EMEA. He thinks that brands who invest in these three elements are setting themselves up for success.

But while some might be hitting the proverbial nail on the head, getting it right is still a challenge for many brands. “Uber, Amazon and Google are the leading players in mobile,” says Minas. “They are very good at providing compelling, considered experiences on mobile that are friction-free and are meeting a clear user need head on, leveraging the various mobile marketing channels from App Store Optimisation and Listing excellence, to re-targeting, app installs, social content and video. App Stores were not built with 1.5m competing apps in mind, so this bloat makes it increasingly hard to make an app hit the heights of the top 25 in a given category.”

According to Nielsen, 63% of app discovery occurs during App Store Search, followed by 61% via friends and family. “This means working the algorithms in your favour along with app assets which best show off the product, as is producing an experience that is good enough to warrant being shared.” He suggests that those keen to adopt mobile would be wise to keep in touch with Apple to help increase the likelihood of being featured.

Mobile going solo?

But possibly the biggest demonstration of mobile's power within the marketing world is the fact that more and more organisations are now creating stand-alone mobile marketing teams within their businesses. 

“To get things started, brands should probably invest in a mobile team, especially for mobile apps,” agrees Brighton. “However, this team should evangelise best practices across the organisation so that mobile is integrated as part of all marketing efforts.” Not only will this help adoption of mobile, he says, but it can alleviate the data silos in organisations where mobile is not treated as an integral part of all digital marketing efforts.

“Unilever once put it very nicely that mobile is the connecting tissue between channels. Whilst nothing sits in a vacuum anymore it is possible to succeed by going mobile only,” enthuses Minas. “Earned, owned and sometime paid media should all work together in beautiful harmony,” he adds. “App discovery starts on Google so having at least a beautiful, yet simple search optimised one-page website is a great way to ensure stronger conversion to download an app.”


But it's not all plain sailing in the world of mobile. 

According to the Adobe Digital Index, mobile accounts for 50 to 70% of all consumer interactions with brands, with app session launches increasing 51% year-over-year. However, the ever-fickle consumer is prone to experimentation and creating app loyalty is proving tough. In fact, with retail shopping apps being launched an average of 13 times before being canned; their usefulness is limited beyond five months.

“While there is a culture of consumers being ‘always on’, brands have to do more to win and maintain their attention,” says Clarke. She believes mobile marketers and brands need to work harder together to seek new and creative ways of producing campaigns and interacting with consumers that tap into their habits.

“Ikea have done this really well with its home planner app where you can place virtual furniture in your own home. In fact, augmented reality is a great way to put the customer in control,” she enthuses. “Technology is definitely catching up to enable improved cross device attribution,” agrees Minas. “The challenge to exponential growth is from ad blocking software, which may slightly stifle it.”

Brighton believes that getting stakeholders and executives on board will be key to unleashing the further investment that mobile needs to truly meet its potential. “Getting stakeholders to understand that mobile is distinct and different will also be a pain point for many brands, but as reports of the ROI of early adopters spreads, this should itself improve,” he says.

Marketing may yet to be mobile-first at the vast majority of organisations, but as the year hurtles towards its end, it’s safe to say mobile is firmly entrenched in the marketer’s arsenal. How you use its potential is the key. “Gleaning user insights will help a mobile project to stand a greater chance of succeeding,” says Minas. “Nothing should stop you going mobile though.”

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