Marketing decision-makers are finding it difficult to adapt their strategies for mobile devices. A new report points up the problems and suggests some basic solutions.

Mobile Marketing: Novelty in Abundance but Effective Strategy Lagging


Smartphones have really made their mark as the number one communication tool in our society, with 150 billion apps downloaded since 2008. US independent technology/market research firm Forrester Research has been trying to understand what this means for marketing goods and services and assess just how well Marketing professionals are getting to grips with the mobile phenomenon. A basic finding of the Forrester report – ‘The State of Mobile Technology for Marketers in 2014’, which is an update of the 2013 report on this subject, drawing on recent surveys among both marketers and consumers – is that company Marketing departments tend to prefer to create new apps rather than bringing existing tools up to date, which leads to a feeling of disorientation among customers.  The authors point to some significant changes in user behaviour as people really start to get to grips with mobile technology. For instance, some 21% of all US smartphone owners post videos and photos from their mobile device every week. Users have become content generators as much as content consumers.

Apps too often fall by the wayside

Forrester recently polled 74 senior marketers and 80,000 connected consumers and compared users’ expectations with action actually undertaken by the marketers. As user behaviour changes, marketers are continually being drawn to create new mobile apps, many of which are then simply abandoned quite soon after launch. “Few brand apps are used on a regular basis. And they do not offer sufficient advantages to create loyalty,” explains Thomas Husson, a Marketing strategy analyst at Forrester, who co-authored the report.  One outcome of this is that the user becomes bewildered by the non-stop changes and does not even download new apps, even though overall time spent in apps is increasing. Only 21% of Android users download new apps at least once a week. Moreover, many brands launch apps for all operating systems, including Windows Phone and Blackberry devices, though these have very small installed bases, which makes this process a costly endeavour without much payoff for companies.  Many Marketing teams therefore really need to revise their mobile app strategy, say the Forrester experts.

Unnecessary fixation on novelty

The report points up a second problem. Marketers often tend to rush into innovation, ignoring solutions that already exist. For example, three quarters of US mobile owners send an SMS at least once a week. However, Marketing people have done little to exploit this channel, less than half of those polled saying they use it. Instead their preferences vary between such tools as in-app advertising, interactive websites, email, QR codes and augmented reality tools. A key criticism levelled at the Marketing people surveyed by Forrester Research is that they often pile into technologies which have not yet proved their worth. Accordingly, the analysts advise marketers to start by focusing on the tried and tested channels before branching out into newer technologies, and then only on the basis of thorough market surveys. Only 27% of the marketers polled have built up customer profiles detailing their use of mobile. In other words, over three quarters of the Marketing professionals polled have very poor knowledge of their smartphone user target market. The report therefore advises marketers to undertake a serious analysis of this ‘new goldmine’ which mobile use data represents, and suggests that they consider things carefully before launching into the new information and communication technologies. All in all, marketers still appear to have a long way to go in adapting their approach to mobile devices.

By Guillaume Scifo