In just nine years the mobile device has become so central to our daily lives that it seems as if it is no longer possible to function normally without it.
We are forever more tethered to our smartphones, and many of us become virtually incapacitated without immediate access to these tiny screens. The anxiety that takes hold as a result of “mobile separation” is real. We must remain connected! And this constant connectivity, this “always on” life, has led to some interesting behaviors that should alarm—and inform—all marketers and advertisers.
But what strikes me as most profound about the new landscape is this: what we think is the Internet or the World Wide Web (and who calls it that anymore?) is not really a “thing” any longer. With few exceptions all of this online activity is actually network-driven, and it’s all consumed almost entirely on the mobile device. This migration away from the desktop to the mobile device continues to accelerate. It is entirely possible that the desktop computer will be completely supplanted by mobile devices in just a few more years. We are already seeing an aggressive migration by many companies away from desktop computers towards laptops and tablets, to better equip their workforce to for mobility and work-place flexibility.
Today, if the task can’t be completed on the mobile device, it probably doesn’t need to be done at all. Yes, some activities are still too cumbersome to execute on the mobile device; their small screens and tiny virtual keyboards make certain transactions challenging… booking a room, renting a car, completing a purchase are, for some users, still easier on a larger screen.
Smartphones have, in fact, become nearly ubiquitous. It was not so very long ago that we asked the question, “How many people have a smartphone?” Today that question is about as quaint as asking how many people have a color TV.
Alongside the ubiquity of smartphones is another very recent, related phenomenon: Facebook has eaten the Internet. Forty percent of all Facebook users now get their news through their Facebook feed. Forty percent of all web traffic is redirected from Facebook. Imagine that. And most people are accessing Facebook how? That’s right, through their mobile device. But that’s not the whole story. Through the fog of smartphone use and Facebook everywhere, e-mail has miraculously held onto its perch as a primary communication channel.
YOU STILL GOT MAIL
Despite the rise of social media, the decline of the desktop computer, and the ubiquity of the smartphone, e-mail still matters. Day-to-day communication at work and home, lead generation, newsletter distribution, couponing and all manner of business transactions are still conducted via e-mail. And in most office environments, e-mail has replaced actual conversations and has led to the reduction of voice calls. How ironic that our smartphones are used less and less for actual talking.
What’s particularly intriguing about this new mobile-enabled information age, with our growing dependence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other sites, is the value of e-mail. And yet, so few companies fail to make the connection between how their employees and customers consume news, information, entertainment and e-mail amidst this migration away from the desktop computer.
While many companies continue to struggle with the so-called mobile-first world, we have now suddenly arrived at a “desktop-second” world. When I receive an e-mail on my smartphone that cannot be read because it is not optimized to be read on a mobile device, I might ignore it and perhaps read it later when I’m sitting in front of my laptop… or maybe not. In all likelihood, that e-mail will get deleted before it is ever read. Imagine creating a TV spot and airing it on radio. The comparison is apt. Why on earth would you do that?
E-mail matters because it is a direct line to your team members, your business partners and your customers. Despite the continued proliferation of aggressive spammers, e-mail remains one of the most effective mechanisms for delivering an offer to your customer. Therefore, gathering customer e-mail addresses should remain a top priority in all of your marketing efforts. Building a robust customer database of marketable addresses ensures your operation will always have access to a reliable source of loyal customers for last minute offers and loyalty program enhancements.
But remember the channel you are utilizing. It does you no good to send e-mails that are not optimized for the mobile device. We are no longer living in a mobile first world—it’s a mobile world now; and the notion that your beautifully rendered e-mail will be read on a desktop computer’s large screen is a quaint anachronism. It’s time to give up building elaborate web pages that look good on a computer monitor… it is a “desktop last” world.
ADAPTING TO CHANGE
What does this mean for marketers? How has this new landscape re-ordered our approach to building brand awareness and acquiring customers? The good news is that this new terrain has unleashed a torrent of experimentation, with many crazy, unhinged applications of promising technology.
For example, the lowly QR code ranks high on the list of promising technologies that are being squandered on useless deployments. If you travel to Europe and Asia, the QR code is everywhere, prominently used by all manner of retail businesses, from dry cleaners to restaurants, taxi cabs to passenger trains. The QR code is ubiquitous and easy to use. We are hindered here in the U.S. because our phones still require the use of a QR reader app, an unnecessary intermediary step that has derailed the technology’s wider adoption and ultimate utility. Worse, if you have a reader app, and scan a code on an ad or sign, chances are you’ll access a web page that has not been optimized for the mobile device’s tiny screen!
These glitches aside, text messaging remains effective, and the mobile web continues to expand, alongside Facebook’s voracious appetite, consuming all media in its path. The industry has to adapt.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
At Wind Creek, we recognize that most of our customers are mobile now, and that the next generation of prospective customers entirely so. And like many organizations, we remain fixated on measuring the return on investment of our advertising dollars, particularly in opportunity markets. We combine awareness messaging (our brand campaigns) with tactical offers that invite our customer to engage with our brand. Our advertising messages seek first and foremost to entice, then acquire and ultimately to retain new customers. When these efforts are tethered to an invitation for the customer to use a mobile device to interact with our advertising, we accomplish several objectives simultaneously. We create brand awareness, we engage with the customer, we acquire customer data (e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers) and, finally, we drive visitation (coupon delivery and redemption).
In order for this apparatus to be successfully assembled, it is critical to remain fully cognizant of context and content. Customers in a train station, for instance, can be easily engaged by virtue of the sheer number of adverting impressions they’re typically exposed to in any given train station over the course of a week of commuting. My favorite canvas is transit advertising, and so-called “station dominations” (taking over an entire train station with only our advertising featured) in particular. With Atlanta serving as a primary feeder market to our Wetumpka property, MARTA (Atlanta’s commuter rail system) is the perfect delivery platform. The daily commuter is by default a captive consumer, and repeated exposure to the campaign can have the desired, presumably, positive effect. Eventually, all of those who become enticed by the message will engage with our advertising, and a small percentage will ultimately complete the game, provide their contact information and populate the data base.
To create the greatest amount of interest with a captive audience, and to fully leverage the unique capabilities of the smartphone—notably geo-location ability and the built-in camera—we devised a mobile game and advertised it via a brand campaign delivered to one MARTA station, Five Points. Consumers simply collected photos of the posters located throughout the Five Points train station, unlocking offers which were then delivered to their phone. Collection of an offer required providing either an e-mail address or mobile number, and an offer code was then delivered to the phone. A visit to the resort would be required to redeem the offer.
The future of advertising may remain cloudy but it is certain that the mobile device and social media are here to stay. There may be improvements to the devices, the networks and the interfaces. And there may well be an upstart social network to take on Facebook. Regardless, the social-mobile customer is here to stay; and only those marketers that fully grasp this reality and the power of this customer will succeed in building and sustaining their brands.