If you need hard evidence that we live in a mobile world, consider that the number of smartphone users this year is set to surpass two billion, with two hundred million of them in the United States alone - some 65% of our total population. Americans now spend more time on mobile apps than watching television. And, according to one recent study, mobile devices account for nearly two thirds of time spent online, with 42% of mobile users considering their device to be the most important resource in their purchasing process.
Clearly, in-app mobile advertising is an idea whose time has come. Yet many companies still shy away from this type of advertising or, if they do pursue it, fail to integrate it into their overall marketing strategy. What are the perceived obstacles, and how can you help your company get past them?
"From my experience in working with many different brands, there is often a lack of knowledge and understanding about mobile on the executive end," says Jason Rothman, mobile and social general manager at SteelHouse, an award-winning advertising software company. "The further you go up in a company, the less involvement you tend to find in tech issues, and in really understanding what's actually happening on the ground in the mobile and social world."
This collective blind spot often leads to companies assigning responsibility for their mobile advertising and marketing programs to a separate team or third party, instead of wrapping it into their core strategy.
A major source of "mobile-phobia" is the uncertainty regarding how to measure performance. As Rothman points out, many brands work with advertising companies that don't have true cross-device attribution: the ability to track a user's behavior across desktop, mobile, and tablet activity.
With cross-device attribution, it becomes possible to tell whether an ad served on a mobile app led to a conversion down the road--on desktop or another device. And with 81% of consumers researching purchases on a mobile phone first, you can understand why that information is extremely useful. The lesson that our mobile and non-mobile worlds are inextricably linked is an important one. SteelHouse, for instance, combines cross-device capability with high-performance algorithms and a transparent pricing model in order to empower customers to decide precisely how much of their advertising budget to devote for each device.
Thinking Mobile First
A well-conceived mobile strategy can be an enormous asset at every stage of the customer-conversion funnel. Users tend to be more accepting of advertising on mobile than they are with other forms of digital ads, such as banner ads in browsers because they are aware that it's the price they pay for a free app. Mobile advertising has many distinct advantages. It is contextual, allowing ads to be targeted across apps with similar audiences, leading, in turn, to higher conversion rates. Because you're always connected when on mobile, anyone can be geo-targeted based on where they are located in real time. And finally, purchasing on a mobile device is convenient and simple, particularly with items at a lower price point that require less pre-purchase research.
Let's take a look at how mobile enhances advertising at every step of the purchase journey, and where to consider investing your time and dollars:
- Prospecting: The higher in the funnel, the more likely someone is to perform research on mobile first. When we see a product on a billboard, in a shop window, or at a friend's house, our first impulse is to reach for our phone and check it out. This, according to Rothman, is where the bulk of mobile advertising dollars should be spent - whether or not your business has an app of its own. It is critical, however, that your ad point to a good, well-designed destination. Without an eye-catching, easy-to-use web portal or Facebook page, any amount spent on in-app advertising means dollars down the drain.
- Retention: So now that you've attracted new customers, it's obvioiusly important to keep them. Here, too, in-app advertising can be very effective by regularly keeping ads in front of customers across the variety of apps they use. An ad made for mobile is much more visually appealing than an email, which, along with being cumbersome to view on a mobile device, is subject to much greater filtering and often goes straight to junk mail. However, Rothman does not advocate ditching email altogether: It continues to reach an older demographic that mobile does not reach, and multi-channel campaigns can effectively incorporate email into a broader marketing approach.
- Retargeting: Here is another type of campaign where the geo-location features of mobile technology are extremely helpful. With mobile-app retargeting, you can present an offer to a potential customer who has both already expressed interest in your product or service and is an ideal position to follow up with a purchase. For example, for customers who have seen one of your ads in the last 24 hours and happen to be within a half-mile of one of your stores, a coupon or discount offer can be dispatched directly to their phone. "These are the kinds of situations where we start thinking mobile first," says Rothman. "There are things you can do with mobile that you just can't on a desktop. Immediacy tied in to location - that's where the world is going. We know what you're doing and what you want, we know you've shown interest recently and you're right near a place to buy. To me, that's a gold mine."
The Importance of the Experience
With the advantages of mobile advertising firmly in mind, your first step is to invest in infrastructure needed to create a great user experience on the sites your in-app ads point to. One simple way to do this is to launch a relatively streamlined and easy-to-use app, or to create a Facebook or Snapchat page optimized for marketing. "As you offer a better user experience, you should then spend more on mobile in-app marketing," says Rothman, noting that mobile-first companies are enjoying conversion rates of 50% or more as opposed to traditional desktop companies. "Once you've gotten to the point where you have a great app and a good mobile website, a majority of your money should go to social and mobile." With the advantages of ease, portability, and location-specificity that mobile advertising provides, any lingering doubts your company may have had about this advertising strategy should be firmly put to rest.