The metrics for mobile handset sales are staggering. Indeed, more than 250 million smartphones were shipped in the third quarter of this year, suggesting that the handset replacement cycle is accelerating rapidly as users swop older models with the latest handsets from the likes of Apple and Samsung.
These numbers suggest that the market size of global smartphone users have increased year-on-year as feature phones ownership shrink on an annual basis. Clearly, the reach of smartphones have improved year-on-year, and this points to consumers having access to handsets with computing power capable of processing rich media and other data-intensive instructions with minimal lag time.
There’s also increasing evidence that many smartphone users are using their devices in their wireless Internet-enabled homes rather their desktops or laptops. For example, tweets are sent from smartphones during reality shows like X factor or The Voice when hashtags are displayed prominently on the TV screens. It’s reasonable to assume viewers will reach for their handsets to send tweets with the displayed hashtags versus booting up their desktops/laptops. In this instance, the smartphone functions as a complementary tool to serve the utilitarian needs of the television viewer.
This is an important trend for all marketers and brand owners who continue to question the efficacy of mobile as a channel to realize marketing objectives.
An expanding market size in smartphone ownership means marketers have increased reach and frequency from their target customers engaging with their brands via mobile.
Does this mean mobile has finally come of age to be a legitimate marketing channel on its own? In my opinion, there are two main reasons that slows down the organic progression of this reality:
1. Inconsistent mobile user experience: What has Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular mobile applications have to do with mobile user experience? They have reinforced user behavior in navigating the different services on the mobile apps with the human finger as the primary interface tool. Hence, there’s a built-in expectation among smartphone users to swipe their handset’s screen to expose hidden menus and interact with commonly-accepted icons such as trashcan (i.e. deleting) or inverted arrow head (i.e. sharing on social networks) to activate its supposed functions, and other user experience that are accepted universally as basic requirements to meet today’s discerning mobile users.
However, it’s surprising to find some companies that continue to neglect the mobile user experience in view of rising expectations from today’s smartphone users. I continue to find QR codes on outdoor posters that direct smartphone users (who scanned the code with mobile QR code readers) to a website formatted for desktop screens that displays content in unintelligible font sizes on a typical 4 to 5 inch mobile screen.
Scanning a QR Code resulted in the display of a screen, which is designed originally for desktops.
Such practices should be discontinued as early as possible as this will simply turn customers away from using their smartphones to interact with your supposedly owned media. Indeed, there’s a growing movement to design websites from a mobile perspective as a starting point and expanding it to desktops later by incorporating other design elements that makes use of the bigger screen size. This trend, coupled with responsive design methodologies should be implemented by brand marketers to seize the initiative to own the mobile channel that reaches their target customers.
2. Customer experience misalignment: While there’s clear evidence that many are substituting desktops and laptops for smartphones as their primary communication tool at home, it remains a small percentage of total mobile handset population as most use their devices on-the-move. This suggests that advertisers can leverage inherent mobile technologies such as location data, geo-fencing and proximity marketing using bluetooth to personalize the engagement experience with your target customers. These efforts are notable as they amalgamate the advantages of mobile technologies to offer the presumably rich user experience, which these smartphones are capable of handling in the first place.
However, it’s equally important for marketers to ensure that the target customers will viscerally enjoy such rich user experience in the first place. This is where some brand marketers fail to invest resources to test the visceral user experience in environments, which their customers are likely to congregate and engage the owners’ mobile services.
Customers rely on mobile Internet services from service providers for connectivity to engage a brand’s mobile services in outdoor environments. Therefore, marketers have to simulate the mobile engagement in the same environment, which your customers will likely be in the first place so as to fine-tune the user experience to fit the realities of varying connectivity performance standards that’s inherent in today’s mobile Internet environment.
Increasingly, mobile users have come to rely on their handsets to communicate with their social network and engage interactively with brands in today’s omni-channel environment. Brand marketers must take heed that mobile is maturing rapidly to be a reliable marketing channel capable of delivering measurable results. Therefore, you should invest scarce resources judiciously to ensure that the mobile marketing user experience is aligned to customers’ expectations that will eventually sustain the mobile channel in the long run.