Mobile in the mix

Douglas McDonald, head of mobile at digital and direct agency Tullo Marshall Warren (TMW), cautions that clients need to have a clear understanding of how mobile can help them with their business challenges.

Douglas McDonald
Douglas McDonald

Relative to other more mainstream media, mobile is still in its infancy. Being the baby of the family it’s receiving a lot of individual attention with many marketers wanting to pick it up and give it a hug.

Of course, it’s great that so much interest is being put in mobile’s direction right now, but you really should not look at it in isolation. Rather, you need to see where it fits in as part the family. In almost all cases mobile has a part to play in multiple areas of any comprehensive marketing plan, rather than as a piece of standalone activity.

Currently, digital marketing plays a fairly large role in most marketers’ plans in terms of addressing how using the web can contribute to objectives of, say, driving traffic. The people who are looking after an organisation’s digital marketing will do their thing.

If they know mobile they will integrate it into the plans, but more often than not online marketing agencies have no experience of mobile and will be tempted to propose strategies around the areas in which they already have strengths.

This means you end up with a microsite that doesn’t work on mobiles, or which is “optimised”. This tends to be a euphemism for making something else show up instead of flash and shoehorning all your content into the screen resolution of the handset. This is slightly better than nothing but it ignores the ’mobile context’ of the person who isn’t sitting in a room with a PC.

To compound this you also get an email campaign that looks terrible on mobile devices where millions check their email.

Interestingly, a Q4 2009 survey by ICM Research shows that about 35% of us are going online via our mobiles in the UK – BUT, of the top 20 internet retailers (IMRG – Hitwise August 2009), only a couple have a site that recognises mobile and serves up a passably usable experience. Probably no prizes for guessing that one of them is Amazon.

Most don’t work on mobiles or show the full normal website to smartphones. They may have mobile sites on the .mobi domain or elsewhere but the average shopper isn’t going to know this! The same can be said for the vast majority of brand sites. Marks & Spencer’s new site, though, is a great example of how it can be done correctly.

Given that, according to Gomez web performance, 40% of shoppers will move onto a competitor’s site if you don’t have one, this shows that a lack of proper mobile integration is actually costing e-tailers revenue that should be rightly theirs.

Furthermore, if you are running offline activity, the chances of mobile being put forward as a way to make those executions work harder is almost zero. Offline marketing teams will almost never propose a simple call to action that simultaneously gives consumers a mobile number, allows them to store details on their phone, and potentially gives them an enhanced experience which motivates them to shop more with you.

Customers want a quick and easy way of responding, and this is exactly what mobile gives them.

It is one of the conundrums of mobile that, although it is part of digital marketing, it works very well embedded in offline work, such as print, outdoor and broadcast.
It’s common for work to be “streamed” into offline or online at a very early stage.

Once mobile has been pushed into one stream or the other there is rarely a way back. The result of this is that mobile is not then integrated properly into offline campaigns and is usually a weirdly anomalous thing on the end of what has been proposed by a pure digital (read…web) agency.

Similarly, if you talk to pure mobile people you’ll sometimes end up doing QR codes or something else that no-one uses and getting a poor response. Frustratingly, this then confirms the opinion held by many client marketers that mobile is “something to keep an eye on for the future”, rather than the contemporary tool it really is.

The crux of what I’m saying is that either clients need to have a clear understanding of how mobile can help them with their business challenges. Or, if they don’t, then they really need to work with agency experts who don’t just understand mobile, but understand the different ways in which it can not only be effective in its own right, but enhance the overall marketing strategy.

With the use of mobiles for online access continuing to accelerate and Gartner showing smartphone sales growing 70%YOY, it really should be a tipping point for companies to regard mobile as a necessity not an option.

The mobile internet is coming, and it’s coming fast. Most of what you know from online is relevant as long as context and the personal nature of the channel plays a part in your plans. Mobile is just ten years behind in terms of processors and connection speeds. Don’t you wish you could go back to the online world of 1992 knowing what you know now? That’s mobile in 2010.