The power of mobile marketing

mobile-marketing_200Australian businesses can be frustratingly slow when it comes to adopting new technology, and mobile marketing is one area where few companies have dared to tread.

But with the growth of smartphone use, the adoption of location-based services like Foursquare, the growth of platforms like Android, new advertising markets like the iAd and AdMob channels and the explosion of location-based search, businesses have no excuse to ignore this rapidly growing market.

Mobileactive business development manager Vanessa Hunt says the Australian market has over 100% penetration, but businesses simply aren’t paying attention.

“The best way to approach this is to know that every single person has a mobile, and some people have two. It’s an extremely personal medium; it’s a fact of life and now just commonplace. Mobile marketing is a part of our lifestyles, and marketing ties into that.”

Mobile marketing is especially important considering users are much more receptive to mobile ads than they were even a few years ago.

According to a study conducted in 2009 by the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association, 39% of mobile users state they would accept ads on mobile in exchange for content or special offers, while 22% said they would accept ads without an incentive.

Further, 56% said they would take ads from companies they have made a deal with, while 37% would accept ads from companies with whom they already have an existing relationship.

That means there are potentially millions of customers ready and willing to receive mobile ads and engage with your business – all you have to do is take advantage of the opportunity.

What does mobile marketing look like?

Ovum analyst Craig Skinner says mobile marketing refers to any marketing practice that “targets the customer in a mobile environment, whether that be through smartphones, tablets or even netbooks to an extent”.

There are a number of forms of mobile marketing, ranging from text message campaigns to display advertisements designed specifically for devices like smartphones. Here are five of the most popular methods:

  • Visual advertisements

Call them banner ads, display ads or interactive ads – they fulfil the same purpose. Visual mobile ads show the user graphics or a picture advertising a business or service, in the same way they do on a normal desktop page. The only difference is they’ve been tailored to a mobile device.

This is where mobile marketing is really becoming a prominent force. Google broke into this space in a big way last year when it bought AdMob for $US750 million, and Apple has followed with the introduction of the iAd platform.

They aren’t shy about their ambitions, either. At the recent World Wide Developer’s Conference, chief executive Steve Jobs says Apple hopes to control 50% of the mobile display advertising sector by the end of the year.

However, this segment of the market still remains relatively small. According to research group EMarketer, only $US593 million will be spent on mobile advertising in the United States this year. But that number is set to explode, with the firm expecting spending of $US1.56 billion by 2013.

  • SMS

SMS marketing has been around for over a decade, but many businesses simply don’t think of using it. Hunt says these SMS campaigns can deliver you a lot of benefit for such a small, cheap effort.

“SMS promotion stuff comprises a lot of what we have been asked to do, along with mobile publishing like apps and websites. Anything like coupons or transaction discounts are being sent through SMS market and it’s becoming really popular.”

SMS is a powerful medium. A recent study from Harris Interactive shows 40% of 18-34 year olds are “somewhat interested” in mobile marketing SMS messages, but once they receive mobile information, 28% will purchase an advertised product in store.

  • Mobile sites

Mobile marketing isn’t just text messages and fancy, interactive displays. Mobile websites are one of the most crucial business developments to emerge over the past few years, and if you don’t have one you may be trailing behind the rest of the pack.

Mobile is about immediacy. If users have to wait even a few more seconds for your clunky site to load up, they’ll move on.

A recent report from Forrester Research shows 19% of online retailers are currently developing mobile sites – the other 81% risk being left behind.

  • Apps

The applications industry, a market that barely existed two years ago, has transformed into one of the most important forces in marketing. Now companies create apps purely to show off their brand, and Skinner says this isn’t just for the big boys anymore.

“Certainly in Australia, the iPhone apps industry has grown enormously. Applications really allow you to have a deeper engagement with a brand, and the more sophisticated apps are now allowing smaller businesses to get in on the action.”

  • Location-based search and SEO

SEO isn’t the most obvious thing to include in a mobile marketing story, but it’s probably the most important. Not only does the growth of smartphone use imply immediacy, it’s also increasingly making location-based marketing extremely important.

Listing yourself on Google Maps, Foursquare or the soon-to-be-released Facebook Places feature, tagging your site with suburb names and other location data, are just some of the ways you can make sure shoppers in your area know you’re around.

According to the AIMIA study, 43% of respondents said they had used their phones to carry out a mobile search in the 12 months to September 2009, compared to 47% who stated at the time they intended to do so over the next year.

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