From mobile couponing and location-based services to QR scans and mobile ads, mobile marketers seem finally to have the mass audience they want. ComScore reports that for the first three months of this year, 38.4% of U.S. mobile subscribers used their phones' web browsers and 36.6% used downloaded apps, while 68.8% used text messaging.
What are marketers actually doing to reach those users, and what will they do in the near future? In a single word: More, and in many directions.
The 2011 Chief Marketer Mobile Marketing Survey found that the number of marketers who ran mobile campaigns last year is matched or even dwarfed by the number who plan to have campaigns in place by the end of 2011. Not everyone is interested in every mobile channel; but overall, they seem to strongly agree that mobile will be a factor in their campaigns, either for standalone promotions or as a cross-channel integrator.
“Mobile is more than a single channel for us,” one anonymous respondent said. The use of mobile devices by our audience encompasses a tapestry of activities, but most importantly it allows them to connect with our brand where, when, and how they choose.”
Or as another put it, “I WANT this to work, for our company as well as for the clients we work for.”
The survey found that while only a third of respondents targeted mobile users with campaigns last year, more than half plan to do the same by the end of this year — much more, if you consider that some of the very high “don't know” 24% still have time to talk to mobile users this year. And the number of respondents who said they would use mobile as a cross-platform integrator in primarily non-mobile campaigns was even larger: 58% in 2011, compared to 37% last year.
The most popular tactic is also the easiest to deploy with the biggest addressable audience: text messaging, used by 59.3% of those doing mobile marketing. More than half of mobile marketers are also using scannable QR or 2D codes. But smartphone app development and mobile display ads also hold channel appeal for more than a third of survey respondents. In fact, only high-end rich media ads and branded mobile games draw less than at least a fifth of the marketers now doing mobile.
While any increases in spending on mobile marketing are on an admittedly small base, the fact that one-third of respondents hiked their mobile marketing spend in the last year is still telling. Nevertheless, about 68% of those polled will still spend less than $10,000 on mobile marketing this year. Only about 10% of respondents expect they will spend $100,000 or more to market via mobile in 2011.
Reasons for the increased spend may be grounded more in assumptions than data. Less than one-fifth said they know from direct study that their target customers are using mobile, and how; slightly more (22.5%) are extrapolating from third-party research. And more than a third (34.8%) admit that they're increasing their bet on mobile without direct knowledge about customer usage. In mobile, where it also matters how your customers are accessing you, operating without insight can be setting yourself up for some hard lessons.
TEXT IS BEST FOR MANY
Text messaging is the Swiss army knife of mobile marketing, since it reaches both smartphones and less able feature phones. Forty-two percent of all respondents said they are either now using text or SMS in their campaigns or will do so this year; but a vociferous half said they will not.
Asked why they won't run SMS campaigns, the largest portion of those avoiders (38.2%) said they could not find the unique value that text messaging could offer their customers; and 30% said they simply don't know enough about how (or whether) their customers use text. Almost the same percentage cited fears of appearing to spam their customers, even with an opt-in from users.
On the other hand, among marketers who are running or plan to run SMS campaigns, the most often-cited advantages are the relative ease of set-up (52.7%), the low cost compared to smartphone apps or optimizing a website (47.3%), the ability to run them with in-house resources (42.4%), and the ability to bridge other marketing channels with text (38%).
As for what content they're integrating into their text campaigns, about 62% of those using SMS said they send mobile alerts or reminders; 45.7% said they are using text to drive traffic to their social media sites and pages; and about 40% said they're promoting contest entry. That same percentage said they are at least occasionally offering mobile coupons within their texts.
ENGAGING APPS VS. OPTIMIZED SITES
Smartphone apps may be in danger of becoming less attractive as more users access the mobile web directly and as smartphone users become more diverse. But respondents to this year's survey still affirm their worth in providing a rich mobile experience. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they either now offer or plan to offer at least one downloadable smartphone app this year. That includes a small 9% who currently offer an app only for the iPhone, although only 2% said they will stick to the Apple platform through this year.
The biggest advantage of apps, according to the marketers who use them, is the ability to build user engagement or frequency of use with a mobile utility (56.2%), and the chance to reach users with branded content of some kind (43.3%). But tops among the reasons not to use a smartphone app is the lack of in-house talent for development (21.5%) and the inability to identify an app that would have clear value for targeted users (18.8%).
At what might be the opposite end of the spectrum from apps is optimizing a brand's mobile site so that mobile users can access it quickly, easily and effectively — not a simple task for websites with lots of product or content pages, and one that often requires specialist help. Nevertheless, 25% of respondents said that they operate a single website that will deliver an optimized experience when it detects mobile users. Another 16% said they run a separate website to which they direct mobile users.
But that 41% optimized group is more than matched by 43% who said they don't now do anything to tailor their Web site for mobile users (and another 6% who don't know about their site optimization). The biggest reason cited for not getting a site mobile ready: “No budget available.” At 46%, that got twice as many votes as the next obstacle to optimization: lack of a company advocate to take charge of the project (23%).
ADS, M-COMMERCE ALSO DRAW
Other research detects a growing interest in placing display ads within mobile content, but the Chief Marketer survey detects little current uptake of mobile ads (14%), although another 24.7% of marketers polled said they will use mobile ads in the next year. Users point to mobile ads' high targetability factor (51.4%), relatively broad reach (49.5%), and the benefits of showing up near the point of sale (37.1%).
More than half those polled who are running mobile display ads are using mobile ad networks to do so (56.6%), compared to 26.5% who are buying ad space on premium mobile sites directly.
Not every marketer polled for the survey is with a retail or e-tail brand, but of the whole response group, a surprisingly large 14% reported that their companies operate a transactional mobile website, and an even larger 29% said they expect to enable mobile sales in the coming year. The primary reasons for enabling m-commerce, according to those surveyed who do, are simply to reach consumers when they're away from both their desktops and any brick-and-mortar stores (57.4%), to let shoppers shop whenever they have a spare moment (51%), and because consumers expect to be able to buy over their handsets (42.6%).
The 2011 Chief Marketer Mobile Marketing Survey was conducted online between May 2 and May 16, 2011, and polled 681 active marketing professionals distributed across both business-to-consumer and business-to-business models from brands and agencies working in the manufacturing, retail, financial, healthcare, travel, entertainment, advertising, publishing, database and nonprofit sectors. More results can be found at www.ChiefMarketer.com/research (registration required).