Mobile Isn't Just the Cell Phone Anymore

  |  March 8, 2010   |  Comments

As the number and variety of mobile devices continue to expand, it's critical to provide device-relevant marketing messages and to test what works with your audience.

Say "mobile" to most marketers and they think cell phone, maybe SMS (define). Yet, personal mobile devices with Internet connectivity encompass a broad array of devices and with a wide range of functionality that continues to evolve and expand rapidly. To put this in perspective, the number of mobile devices accessing the Internet is projected to reach 1 billion by 2013 based on research by IDC.

While the popularity of any particular device may shift, the total number of these devices continues to grow exponentially. The major five variants are:

  • Smartphones: This includes iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Android phones. They primarily provide voice, e-mail, and text communications. Additionally, they may connect to the Internet and have other functionalities. As of Q4 2009, smartphone penetration was 21 percent of cell phones, according to Nielsen.

  • Portable multimedia devices: This includes the iPod touch. They provide Internet connectivity and other functionality without traditional voice communications. They work with Wi-Fi connections and avoid high cost mobile phone data plans. According to Morgan Stanley's December 2009 Mobile Internet Report via eMarketer, there were 72 million shipments of wireless multimedia players in 2009.

  • GPS-related devices: This includes separate mapping products and car-based computers, which mainly give drivers visual and verbal travel instructions and location related information.

  • E-readers: This includes the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, which enable users to read books and other content on a handheld device and access the Internet for additional information. According to iSuppli, the e-reader market is expected to reach 12 million in 2010.

  • Gaming devices: This includes handheld and console devices that are enhanced with Internet connectivity to provide an enhanced experience and services. Fifty-four percent of households had a gaming device in 2009 based on Nielsen's research, and Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Wii were the dominant brands.

Five Mobile Marketing Tactics

From a marketing perspective, the increased number and type of devices translates into dealing with additional operating systems and different methods of incorporating your brand into the consumer experience. This leads to increasing complexity and expense. If you're looking to enter this evolving market, here are five basic suggestions for integrating mobile into your marketing plan:

  • Make your marketing e-mail easy to read on a mobile/smartphone: These recipients read your e-mail on a small screen, often between other activities, so they're skimming, looking for high priority items, and want to handle requests quickly. Therefore, use a consistent "from" name to ensure that readers know who you are; keep subject lines to 15 characters or less with front-loaded keywords; make content easily scannable, placing the most important information at the top; and include a call-to-action with your phone number, e-mail address, or Web site.

  • Create a mobile Web site so users can find you: "Think of where customers are when they access your information and include critical information like phone number, store hours, location and/or directions," recommends Microsoft Mobile Solutions Specialist Steve Siegel. Also, mobile device screens tend to be narrower than regular Web sites. Therefore, Steve reminds marketers for optimal design and usability to take into consideration that users tend to scroll down, not across.

  • Appear on mobile search engines: Based on Nielsen tracking, mobile search grew 102 percent in 2009. Bid for mobile terms separately and know that the search engines can distinguish by type of handset used. Deliver an optimized mobile experience by creating a mobile Web site and targeted mobile promotions.

  • Understand that customers and fans access and interact with social media from smartphones and other devices: According to recent comScore research, one in nine users accesses a social network from their mobile phone; for smartphone owners, the percentage increases to three in 10 users who access social media via a mobile browser. Therefore, your social media engagement personnel must be able to react appropriately to issues from customers on the go with location sensitive, relevant assistance.

  • Use mobile devices for telephone communications and transactions: Roughly one in five households in the U.S. only have a cell phone, according to Nielsen. To reach these customers and prospects, ask them for their mobile phone number and permission to use it and/or text message them.

Mobile Metrics

Before starting a mobile-oriented marketing program, gather information from prospects, customers, and fans as to which devices they use and what type of mobile content they'd like from you. Remember that customers may not be able to envision specifics, so focus on their needs and wants, because your goal is to deliver information that customers want. Don't forget to collect information about mobile initiatives being undertaken by major players across the market and by your competitors.

To this end, provide communication vehicles that allow prospects and customers to give you feedback. This includes e-mail, text messages, social media, and traditional customer service. Also, consider including brief survey questions in your e-mail and text messages.

As with any digital marketing campaign, it's important to monitor your metrics. Here are some of the factors to track:

  • Count the number of impressions from mobile Web sites.

  • Track your mobile search marketing advertising results.

  • Use dedicated incoming phone numbers to separately monitor responses to e-mail, search, and Web sites.

  • Monitor social media engagement related to mobile communications.

  • Measure your house file in terms of cell phone numbers on record and permissions to text and call customers.

As the number and variety of mobile devices continue to expand, marketing strategies to engage the mobile consumer will continue to evolve rapidly. Remember, whether or not you have a mobile strategy, your prospects and customers already get your marketing messages via these devices. Therefore, it's critical to provide device-relevant marketing messages and to test what works with your audience.

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Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital,, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog,, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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