Mobile technologies are radically changing the way marketers and consumers interact and transact.
Today’s devices place content, promotions, and advertising in the hands of consumers at any moment and in any given place. They also make it possible to introduce one-to-one marketing and contextual advertising--concepts that promise to generate greater revenues for businesses and wring out many of the inefficiencies associated with traditional blunt-force marketing.
Yet, as many CMOs are discovering, mobility is not a monolithic entity. Consumers buy and use different devices for different tasks, and they behave very differently on each of them. As a result, smartphones, phablets, mini-tablets, and full-sized tablets require different strategic and practical approaches revolving around design, usability, content, and delivery.
“There are fundamental differences that marketing executives must pay attention to and focus on,” said Nikao Yang, senior vice president of global marketing at mobile advertising firm Opera Mediaworks, in an interview with CMO.com.
To be sure, navigating this rapidly evolving mobile environment is critical. Today, any type of marketing strategy must span devices but also focus on the nuances of users and their behaviors. According to research from Flurry Analytics, phablets rose from about 2% of the overall mobile device market in 2013 to more than 10% in late 2014. During the same time span, full-sized tablets shrunk from about 7% of devices to 5%, while mini-tablets remained at about 6% of the market. It turns out that phablet users consume media--particularly video, sports, and music--at a far higher rate than those using other devices.
As Kim Smith, vice president of innovation and digital services at business and technology consulting firm Capgemini, told CMO.com: “We are witnessing enormous innovation and disruption. Over the past couple of years, phablets have fundamentally reshaped the marketplace and introduce new opportunities and challenges.”
For many years, the general consensus was that smaller is better in the mobile phone arena. However, after Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, screen size emerged as a critical issue. In 2011, Samsung introduced its Galaxy Note series, a larger form factor that introduced a hybrid smartphone-tablet device that was dubbed a “phablet.” Many industry observers initially questioned the concept but, over the past couple of years, sales of phablets have skyrocketed and device manufacturers have scrambled to fill the niche. For example, in 2014, Apple introduced the iPhone 6 Plus while increasing screen size of the standard iPhone 6.
“The appeal of phablets is that they provide a more immersive experience in a pocket-sized form factor,” Smith said. “They are able to accommodate multimedia far better than a conventional smartphone.”
The net effect? Screen size correlates with higher levels of Web browsing, content viewing, and overall usage, said Tamara Gaffney, Adobe Digital Index principal analyst. “The use of larger screen phablets is increasing at a much faster rate than that of smartphones,” she told CMO.com. “They’re easier to use and control; the larger screen size makes it easier to read text and view videos. You can interact with content without a fat finger getting in the way. It’s an entirely different experience.”
She noted that the phablet form factor is not only contributing to a decline in sales for tablets, but those who have a tablet device and a phablet are relying on the latter more often. “Tablets are becoming niche devices used mostly for watching video or playing games,” she said.
Nevertheless, key differences exist for men and women and among different age and demographic groups. Because men have pockets rather than purses, they are less likely to carry a phablet around with them. In addition, a Forrester Research study, “The State of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2014, US,” found that younger consumers--particularly Gen Y and Gen Z--prefer smartphones and phablets at nearly double the rate of older Baby Boomers, and they’re often the only device or primary device they use.
In some cases, such as in emerging markets, social status may also come into play in terms of the device of choice, Opera Mediaworks’ Yang added. “There is a perception that a larger device means you are more affluent,” he said.
While all mobile content consumption is on the rise, key differences are visible. According to Flurry Analytics, phablet users consumed sports content at a 427% higher rate than other devices in January 2015, compared to the previous year. In addition, they consumed music and entertainment at a 255% higher rate, and news and magazine consumption was 172% higher.
Yet, as Yang pointed out, “Device size and form factor aren’t the only consideration for marketers. It’s also important to recognize that iOS devices are not given away free. In many cases, iOS users are more coveted because they have more money to spend and they represent a higher lifetime value. While marketers may buy impartially across platforms and target all users, there are very real and important differences when you assemble all the pieces of the puzzle.”
True To Form
The complexity of today’s mobile environment--and the number of intersecting issues related to specific devices--isn’t lost on anyone. However, it’s possible to sort through all of the data points and approach mobile marketing in a smart way.
A starting point, Smith said, is to understand that it’s essential to optimize content for three platforms: iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. “You don’t want to block out an audience or demographic group because they can’t obtain the content on their device,” she said.
She also recommended adopting a mobile-first perspective and using analytics to understand an audience and the way people behave when using a device: “You have to assume that the first path to content nowadays is through the mobile device. If you don’t adopt this mind-set, you will typically have to go back and recraft, rebuild, redesign, and redeploy content, and that’s a more complicated and time-consuming process that typically leads to subpar results.”
It’s also important to understand the specific hardware features that a device supports and how the form factor affects behavior, including purchases. Among other things, this may determine whether a mobile site or app should incorporate speech recognition, pinch and zoom capabilities, swiping, and other gestures. It may also mean rethinking the route from marketing and promotions to sales. For instance, the fingerprint scanner built into the iPhone 6, along with the recently introduced Apple Pay, makes it simple to initiate a purchase from a mobile app without typing in a password, credit card number, shipping information, and other data. The user authorizes the transaction with a thumbprint.
An understanding of design, form factors, usability, and interfaces is paramount. Most often, this means working up from the smallest form factor when devising content, marketing materials, and advertising. “It is much easier to scale up than to scale down,” Smith explained.
There’s also a need to adopt a design approach that reduces, if not eliminates, the need to scroll--something that users find increasingly tedious and undesirable. Instead, there’s a requirement for buttons and tabs--particularly in apps--that deliver simple and quick navigation. “You really have to understand what you want the consumer to do and how they can do it most effectively on a given device,” Smith added.
It is critical to approach mobile marketing with the understanding that what worked 10 years ago, or even five years ago, probably won’t work today, Yang said. For example, as consumers shift to apps for the bulk of their mobile activities, marketers must not only find ways to deliver content and ads through these apps but also tailor them to the device and deliver everything in a robust and useful way. While consumers may watch a show from A&E or National Geographic on different devices--and the layout and experience may be somewhat different--the same consumer behavior might not be true for someone watching a sporting event or playing a game. “As an advertiser, you may need to target a specific device, user or form factor,” he said.
In addition, consumers may use certain apps and content for certain devices. For instance, Forrester Research found that while 43% of smartphone and phablet users rely on their devices while using public transit, only 14% of tablet users do so. What’s more, 66% of smartphone users tap their devices while in a store, but only 9% of tablet users do so.
Yang pointed to music-tagging app Shazam as an example of how behavior plays out in the real world. It is heavily used on smartphones and phablets, which people carry with them and use in public places. However, it’s unlikely that a person would rely on a tablet for tagging music--unless he or she uses the tablet as a second screen and tags from a television special or awards show in the living room.
“You want to be smart about your spend,” Yang said. “You really need to understand the device, the situation, and how that intersects with the content. It’s all very specific.”
As mobility and form factors continue to evolve, marketers must stay tuned. For instance, the Apple Watch may add new dimensions to mobile marketing. Adobe’s Gaffney said research indicates that 67% of smartphone users said they are likely to purchase a smartwatch at some point in the future, and penetration rate for the new device will likely hit 10% of iPhone 6 users within 18 months. “It is an emerging submarket that marketers should keep an eye on,” she said.
In the past, smartphones created a demand for tablets, and now phablets are creating a greater demand for a more personal interaction on the wrist. A consistent and ongoing issue is that marketers and others historically underestimate new form factors and the impact they have on the marketplace and consumer behavior.
“In today’s environment, adding one thing doesn’t necessarily take anything away from another thing,” Gaffney noted. “In many cases, it simply changes the way people use the devices and how a marketer must deliver the content or the advertisement.”
Likewise, smart clothing, furniture with built-in recharging stations, and other emerging technologies and trends will influence behavior further in the months and years ahead. Automobile information systems, such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, promise to drive even greater changes. And beacons, RFID, and other sensors are likely to offer new and different opportunities to interact with consumers on mobile devices.
“The key is to understand how, when, and where consumers use these devices, and what they carry with them and use in specific circumstances and situations,” Smith said. “The focus, in order to achieve maximum credibility and trust, must be on delivering the right message, content, and experience at the right time and place.”
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