A recent study by Forrester recorded that 60% of consumers’ time spent on digital is happening through mobile devices, a trend also supported by ComScore that detailed the findings of “rapid growth in media consumption through mobile apps” and highlighted in the chart below:
With media content driving consumption, the purchasing of products and services is also enjoying rapid growth. Online retail sales are accounting for 15% of sales and technology advisors, Emarketer, predict that e-commerce growth via mobile will by 2017 will account for 25% of retail sales will take place via a mobile device.
Such statistics point to a definite mobile future but how mobile ready are brands to service this growing consumer demand? According to a recent report from Mobile Marketer, brands have a lot more to do in embracing the skill of marketing their mobile proposition effectively.
The report highlights that the top five consumed mobile apps represent nearly 30% of time spent on all mobile apps. So if only a small % of mobile apps are being discovered and used, how can brands ensure their mobile strategy is going to extend their brands digital footprint?
Mobile Marketing in a Silo
Mobile presents a new technology platform for many organisations to understand and include within their digital marketing mix, so it’s common for new technologies such as mobile to be built in silos, developing and creating such a channel as a standalone strategy that is not integrated with your other digital channels and with unclear business objectives.
Daniel Rowles, author of Mobile Marketing suggests “You should think about how mobile is affecting all the things you’re already doing – how is it affecting search, mobile and email for example,” says Rowles. “We have a habit of saying ‘we have a marketing strategy, we’ve got a digital marketing strategy, and a social media strategy and a mobile strategy’ – and actually they should all be one and the same thing. It is looking at our target audience and seeing what channels they are using, what parts of traditional and digital media are proving relevant and then being in those places.”
The travel sector provides a good example of why your channels need to be joined up under one strategy, as highlighted in this PhocusWright survey. It found that whilst 41% of travellers will browse for flights and hotel deals from a handheld device, only 23% will continue the purchase on the same handheld, rather, the purchase is completed via desktop. A case in point as to why the importance of integrating all your digital channels and monitoring your attribution channels.
Brands should do away with the walled garden philosophy
The Walled Garden was a concept pioneered by AOL in the late ‘90’s with the objective of navigating online users to a selection of online materials within a branded AOL channel. By creating a walled garden, it presented an opportunity for AOL to drive their other branded products to a targeted community of users promoting incentives e.g. sign up to and join AOL chatrooms or subscribe to an AOL email account.
It also drove a commercial appeal for online retailers wishing to sell their products and services to this “fenced off” online community created by the internet service provider and at the time, AOL claimed that 85% of their users never leave the AOL territory!
And now a recent article in Mobile Marketer is predicting a revival of the Walled Garden approach with the thinking that brands should build apps as a next generation “loyalty card” consolidating their relationships with their best customers. This concept is a little old fashioned. Are you really wanting to invest time and effort in a mobile app to only attract existing customers? Retaining and keeping your existing audience is essential but it’s not delivering a platform to acquire new audiences.
So what is the purpose of creating an app?
This is the question brands needs to be asking themselves. What is it for? What does success look like? Author Daniel Rowles has a warning for organisations that jump on the bandwagon and chase the next shiny new tactic or channel referring to it as “Technology for the sake of Technology”, it sums up nicely the views digital marketers struggle with in convincing organisations that they should not chase for the “next shiny new digital tactic” but focus on objectives and strategy first.
We are obsessed by what is new and it can be a huge distraction. In reality there is a severe lack of taking a step back and thinking about core objectives and target audience. Focus on this and most everything else falls into place. You then have an answer as to should you be investing time and effort into a mobile app.
The Battle between Apple v Google
We’re moving away from the traditional way we perceive what an app actually is, i.e. downloading a branded app you interact with at your own leisure.
We should be thinking about the operating system (OS), how Google and Apple are building up a profile of your user habits through daily interactions with your smartphone and the apps you’ve decided to base your lifestyle around. This helps a to build and better identify what content the OS should be pushing to you based on your profile of user habits, interests and lifestyle choices.
This article in Wired explains it further…”You only have to think about the recently launched “Move to Ios” Android App that Apple launched which will wirelessly transfer all your data and apps over the border into Ios territory” – The battleground is about the operating systems, Apple v Google in this instance, both wanting to build the perfect smartphone ecosystem based on your needs and interests.
And Apple has taken this battle to a new level when they recently hit the headlines by firing a warning shot to news organisations, announcing a new home for news content called..News.
Launching on iOS9, the idea is to curate the best content from the world’s leading news organisations tailored to the individual user.
According to an article through niemanlab.org – “the user picks their set of new sources and topics they are interested in based on a number of different industry sectors which is then optimised for whatever Apple device you have to view such content. There is also a revenue opportunity for news publishers that decide to syndicate their content to Apple News”.
If there ever was an indicator pointing towards the decline in branded apps and brands needing to consider how to market their content and points of differentiation to appeal to the operating system…this is it. It’s media content that is driving mobile consumption and the operating systems are realising by utilising the best of the media channels into a form of curation, this creates a USP.
With Facebook also moving in the same quarters for incentivising news publishers to distribute their content as well as Snapchat and Google Now creating their own strategies around 3rd party content distribution, we’re seeing a shift away from brands building their own walled gardens but there is a growing need for brands to be strategically partnering up with the operating systems themselves.
Moving to a One Screen World
So what does this all mean for setting a mobile first strategy? Let’s look at some key facts.
Fewer consumers regularly use branded apps and this decline is set to continue.
From 2015, there will be a growing trend for brands to instead of focusing too much on owning mobile moments, will start serving customers where they are, borrowing mobile moments from mobile partners offering services like mapping, messaging apps, and media platforms. In other words cross marketing opportunities, collaboration and content curation seem to be the next battleground from brands to drive their reach as well as user engagement.
To deliver more-contextualized experiences, savvy marketers will use customer insights teams in their planning strategy and convince the entire organization to invest more significantly in mobile as part of their multi-touchpoint. An example of this is Google’s recent announcement of indexing app content and how iOS users searching via the Google app can find content that exists on other iOS apps as mentioned by the Search Engine Journal
- Serving the “Just in time” user
As well as the more traditional news and media verticals, Companies disrupting existing markets continue to grow with a vision to serve the “just in time” generation such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates, with three sectors listed – Transportation, Food & Delivery:
- Social Media Usage
The top of the charts for app usage is Facebook, YouTube, Maps and Gmail in terms of time spent.
Create a Utility
Research the market you operate and understand better what could enhance the daily lives of your users through an app? Customer insight professionals will combine mobile data with other sources of customer data to get a deeper understanding of their customers’ behavior, anticipate their needs, and act on these insights to improve all customer interactions, optimizing out-of-home advertising and refining cross-channel attribution by extracting contextual insights from mobile data.
One Screen World
Your brand needs to be providing something so in demand by your audience that it warrants its pride of place on a users screen and justifies 1 of the 24 apps on display. This is crucial real estate – why should your branded app appear on their first page of smartphone screen? what are you offering that requires daily interaction multiple times? As mentioned by Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl, Alt Delete, “The new real estate in winning hearts and minds of the consumer is that elusive homescreen”
And that is the point, the pressure is on brands to stay relevant, to be breathing something that is so relevant and user friendly to their audience.
We are fast moving to a one screen world and to be successful will need the integration of all digital channels to work as one offering a consistent message, fantastic user-experience and something deeply entwined around your audience.
We need to move away from the thinking of building a separate marketing strategy, digital marketing strategy, social media strategy, SEO strategy and mobile strategy’ and move to one digital strategy. A mobile-first future is fast approaching and with it means staying relevant and different to the competition not just for your audience but also for the operating systems your brand will sit on.