Those of us who been in the digital space for a while can easily see history repeating itself, as brands evolve their marketing mix to reach consumers where they spend their time. What was once a huge chasm between Internet ad spend and time spent on the web has narrowed to be within a few percentage points, but now all eyes are on mobile.
Mary Meeker’s influential Internet Trends report pegged mobile as consuming 10 percent of people’s media consumption time, yet capturing only 1 percent of advertising spend – a $20 billion opportunity in the U.S. alone. In addition, the number of smartphones and tablets in use will surpass PCs in the second quarter of this year, which, on its own, will increase mobile’s share of media consumption time by 10 percent according to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).
The unparalleled speed of mobile’s growth, with the anticipation of narrowing the ad spend vs. time spent gap, has become the rallying cry across industries and the centerfold to every brand marketer’s 2013 plans. Yet, while the vision is clear, how we all get there is much less so.
We debate issues like “fat fingers,” the need for standardized metrics, and new ad size specifications without really adapting our mindset to the inherently personal nature of mobile devices. Meeker’s own data shows that revenue from apps is more than twice that of mobile advertising, and Gartner projects the 45 billion app downloads this year to be nearly seven-fold in 2016. But it isn’t just about the amount of time being spent on mobile vs. the media dollars; mobile is a different game. Smartphones are always with you; they have GPS location, include cameras, and have more accurate tracking potential, as most people only use one or two mobile devices (compared to many desktop or laptop devices).
For consumers, mobile is their ultimate utility, customized to serve their needs throughout their day and rarely an arm’s reach away. The challenge for marketers and advertisers is to figure out how to adapt past interruption-based efforts, to add value, and become a sought-after addition to the screens of smartphones.
Clearly, in the past four years since the App Store opened, many brands have matured their app strategies to do just this. They’ve tied into users’ social graphs to increase relevancy, added location-awareness to increase context, and employed push notifications to drive ongoing engagement and deliver value throughout users’ days. But what we’ve seen in the past four months from the very players that enabled all of this – Apple and Google – promises an easier method of being invited onto consumers’ mobile devices that will usher in an even larger wave of mobile marketing investment.
Solutions like Apple Passbook lower the barriers to entry for both businesses and consumers. Businesses can more rapidly and inexpensively have a persistent presence on consumers’ devices through passes that can be dynamically updated on the fly. Consumers can easily add passes to their phone, received through email, SMS, web pages, and banner ads, marrying their intent to mobile loyalty and reward programs. And for both businesses and consumers the whole process is more streamlined, integrated, and convenient. Marketers can more easily close the loop between mobile acquisition and conversion, while consumers have everything they need on one device with time- and location-relevant pop-ups automatically helping them maximize their value.
Complementary technology is beginning to come to play as well, like Urban Airship’s acquisition of PassTools, which enables pass creation in minutes and without writing a single line of code. Think about the implications of marketers easily being able to move from relying on consumers to delve into an app to getting an alert through Passbook on their iPhone based on location! This is a very different experience and has some interesting opportunities for marketers – and clear benefits for consumers around brands they are excited about.
Considering the multi-billion dollar paper coupon industry and the less than 1 percent redemption rate, it’s clear how solutions like Apple Passbook will be transformative. And passes are not just coupons, but also event tickets, boarding passes, store loyalty cards, and more. It’s a very safe bet that most other mobile operating systems will soon offer similar capabilities as witnessed by Google’s new digital coupon service, Zavers, and its partnership with Scoutmob for Field Trip.
As mobile advertising continues its evolution to adapt to mobile, and consumers’ love affair with mobile apps gets downright hot and heavy, now is the time to prep for the new age of mobile loyalty and rewards. Passbook-type solutions can be rapidly adopted to bolster existing mobile strategies or to reach consumers’ devices for the first time.
As a marketer, if you are serious about mobile you must be considering ways to integrate push messaging with things like Passbook on the iPhone and emerging solutions on the Android and others. Those who jump on this have a huge advantage and momentum will build quickly.
This column was originally published on January 21, 2013.