The Year of Mobile: Closer Than We Think?

Last month we reviewed some of the latest trends of the TMP Directional Marketing/comScore Annual Local Search Study. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, I pronounced “2010 Will be the Year of Mobile” and then quickly retracted the comment as humor.

However, with Google’s recent announcement of acquiring mobile advertising provider AdMob, as well as a deeper read and analysis of the above study, my prediction that mobile “is still a few years out” may be wrong. Is this another boy-calling-wolf ruse? No. The year of mobile just may be closer than we think.

Clearly, smartphone adoption is driving mobile search adoption, so it stands to reason that as the population of smartphones increases so does the local/mobile marketplace.

Data Plans Drive Adoption

It’s amazing how perspective can change over time. I loved this statement in a June 2005 CNET article:

“The president and co-CEO of Research In Motion, maker of BlackBerry devices, warned the industry Monday that allowing people unlimited wireless data use will have a devastating effect on wireless innovation.”

Hmmm…I wonder what he thinks about the iPhone?

Today, data plans are one contributing factor to the fast growth of smartphones and the utilization of local search on the wireless device. In the early days, data plans were on a pay-as-you-go model so the user’s usage patterns were diminished because of the high cost of conducting a search or mapping a location on their phone. Today’s flat rate data plans act as an “all you can eat buffet” for users, opening the gates to higher utilization and the perfect breeding ground for additional innovation of mobile local search.

Is Now the Right Time for Mobile?

Now is the perfect time to trial emerging mobile options. Unlike the dot-com years of the Internet (1998-2001), advertisers aren’t flocking to mobile advertising because it’s cool and cutting edge, and as a result inventories are high and costs are relatively low.

The poor economy has forced advertisers to focus all their energies on proven vehicles with defined ROI. As a result, mobile advertising prices are at low price points. As demand grows and cuts into the inventory supply, we will no doubt never see a time again where the costs are this reasonable and the brand “risk” stakes so low.

Get the Basics Right

According to comScore’s Mobile Metrics report, online directories and maps experienced the greatest growth in subscribers on a year-over-year basis.

Growth in Local Mobile Content by Genre

Growth in Local Mobile Content by Genre Table

Source: comScore Mobile Metrics

This fact underscores the need to make sure that your business listings are correct and accurate on the sites that feed mobile apps or are accessed via browser on mobile devices.

In “Ranking in Local Listings,” we reviewed how to establish your listing on Google Maps, which is heavily employed by mobile users. So open your phone/device and all your friends’ phones/devices and check your listing. Remember that many of these listing databases are fed from the big local business data providers, so check and update your listing on InfoUSA, and Localeze (and others can be found here).

In terms of media, leverage your local search campaigns which have mobile extensions that you’re already paying for. For example, ads on AT&T’s appear on the Web site, on AT&T Wireless featured phones, and are included in iPhone apps. Ask your agency to work with the media vendor to separate out the mobile responses.

This once again demonstrates the need for call tracking, which can help you understand a portion of the mobile traffic generated. Also, Google has opportunities to expand your AdWords into the mobile space, complete with tracking. And don’t forget about the other mobile experiences — you may want to consider voice-based search or directory assistance because 23 percent of mobile users access directory assistance as part of their local search process.

Use of Directory Assistance Services
(among respondents who have used DA)

Use of Directory Assistance Services Chart

Source: TMPDM/comScore Local Search Usage Study 2009

As we continue to learn from our mobile campaigns and how consumers choose to respond, common sense dictates that a large portion of mobile consumers will access a directory or map from their phone or mobile device and simply show up on the doorstep to purchase.

Until we can harness the power of reading consumer’s minds, linking online and mobile sales stimulus to offline action will remain a challenge. That being said, some emerging techniques are already helping to close this gap.

Mobile coupons, delivered via browser or app, are high on the list of effective ways to entice consumer interaction and also are a great means for measuring campaign effectiveness. Another leading technique for feature phones include SMS short codes. Finally, point-of-purchase surveys are still a mainstay for businesses to measure consumer media consumption when couponing isn’t practical.

So will 2010 be the year of mobile? Yes. Smart marketers will begin to learn from trial campaigns as users flock to smartphones and other mobile devices that will become increasingly important in how consumers select local businesses and brands.

Get started, and measure your results.

Join us for SES Chicago on December 7-11, 2009. Now in its 11th year, the only major Search Marketing Conference and Expo in the Midwest will be packed with 70+ sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, video optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an exhibit floor, networking events and more.

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