What Can Mobile Do?

So here we are in 2010 and mobile is here. Sort of.

I thought this year would bring the Starship Enterprise back, I’d get to wear spandex to work, and – let’s face it – probably fall in love with a Vulcan with pointy ears. Instead, I’m writing about the evolution of mobile and anxiously awaiting a still untitled 12th “Star Trek” feature film.

One thing I know for sure is that there’s a connection between Captain Kirk and mobile.

Mobile is something we’ve talked about for years. Mobile display, mobile search, mobile applications. Mobile marketing in general has captured the eyes and ears of every marketer to own a phone.

However, one question has been a large barrier to entry for some time: “How do we do it?” Well, now that we’ve gotten past that and Google has made it rather easy to activate search campaigns with the flip of a “switch” – the new question is, “What can I expect?” Now that you’re really in mobile, what can it do?

It’s a valid question, and just as our dear Captain Kirk may have been wondering what was behind the next warp, we’re all wondering if anyone will ever interact with mobile the way they do the Web.

One of the easiest and most relevant forays into mobile marketing has been couponing. Whether it was through short code SMS or MMS couponing, it has made sense. Just mimic your e-mail marketing campaign in the mobile space. No new promotions, no new creative, no new headcount.

Yet consumers are slow to adopt. Just 4 percent of Internet users had redeemed a mobile coupon, compared with 86 percent who had redeemed a clipped paper coupon, according to a 2009 Honeywell survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

With this as an example, it’s clear we still don’t know what to expect from mobile marketing. Search volumes are low, there’s no surefire way to measure revenue impact, apps are costly to produce, and the list goes on.

However, according to a 2009 Millennial Media survey, 62.5 percent of brands found mobile indispensable in their marketing mix. As it turns out, these same brands were using engagement as their main performance metric. That’s it. They were less focused on purchases and driving traffic and more focused on interacting.

So the real question should be: “what are we afraid of?” With the opportunities for beta programs falling out of the woodwork, seamless transitions to WAP sites, basic app development readily available, the aforementioned “barrier to entry” is really gone.

Given that the transition for advertisers from online to mobile search is still in its infancy, there are massive benefits for early adopters. CPC rates are still low, and most engines are looking for feedback – which means your comments and suggestions are recognized, even implemented. Get ahead of other marketers, understand the space, drive your brand as a leader in mobile, and did I mention the lower CPCs?

In all fairness, we’re not talking about time travel within the interstellar universe or even the formula for creating a black hole. It’s just marketing. And test marketing at that.

Take advantage of the opportunities while they still exist and leave the major overarching analysis for a later date. I’m not saying we need to wear spandex to work – just maybe run some mobile search.

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