Mobile marketing is no longer optional. A total of  80 percent of U.S. smartphone users now use their mobile device for shopping. That's over 85 million people. Let's not even start on the 670 million people in China connected to the Internet, mostly through smartphones. All these people are consuming marketing materials, researching brands and even making purchases on their smartphones. You simply cannot afford to ignore that huge market opportunity.

Unfortunately, the different mobile platforms out there complicate the process of mobile marketing. A campaign that works on iOS may not load properly on Android devices, or vice versa. Even if you get both to work, you may be missing the small but valuable subset of users on Windows or Blackberry devices.

Understanding The Different Platforms

According to Statista, the current market share for each mobile operating platform is:

  • Android: 53.2%
  • Apple iOS: 41.3%
  • Windows: 3.6%
  • Blackberry: 1.8%

Obviously, your first priority should be targeting Android and Apple, but the bottom two still represent 5% of the smartphone market. Blackberry is still often used for corporate phones, so B2B companies especially will want to make sure their mobile marketing materials work on that platform.

What's The Difference?

Each of the four operating systems has significant differences. They all run on different programming languages, offer different functionalities and have different levels of customization. Some, like Android, are open source and can be updated by a variety of users, whereas others like iOS are closed and uniform across all their devices.

If you want to build a mobile marketing app, it's crucial to make sure you build it to be suitable for all of these different platforms. There are a number of different development tools out there that can help you build a mobile app for each different platform.

There are other differences as well. For instance, Apple recently unveiled an update that could make it much easier for iOS users to block ads while browsing the web. You'll want to consider whether your marketing materials will get past adblock software or other filters.

Demographic Breakdown

Not only do the different platforms offer different functionalities, they also tend to attract different types of users. This is especially noteworthy in the split between Apple and Android users.

Apple users tend to be younger, wealthier and convert at a higher rate than Android users, although that gap is starting to shrink. Apple users are also more likely to buy online and make bigger purchases.

For the smaller two operating systems, Windows phones tend to attract even more cost-conscious users. Blackberry phones, though, are the most interesting case. They tend to attract older business professionals, people who might not be comfortable making online purchases, but definitely represent a valuable market.

Platform Independent Mobile Marketing

You can build apps and other marketing materials that will work differently on different operating systems, but this can be expensive and leaves the possibility of offering an inconsistent user experience. The better option is to tailor your mobile marketing as much as possible to methods that work the same regardless of platform.

SMS marketing tools allow you to reach smartphone users with targeted deals. These offers can be extremely effective, and they have engagement rates up to eight times higher than email marketing. Best of all, they work on any device as long as the consumer has unlimited texts, which almost every smartphone plan comes with these days.

Don't Forget Tablets (For Now)

Tablet usage is falling as more users switch to smartphones, but tablet users are still a valuable market. This segment is dominated by Apple, but there are still tablets out there running Android and Windows. Keep these differences in mind, and also remember the opportunities that the larger screen size gives you to craft your message.

No matter what device or platform your marketing materials end up on, keep your focus on the end user experience. Think about the final design throughout and run tests to make sure users will see exactly what you want them to see on their mobile devices.

Published on: Feb 18, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.