Goin’ Mobile


Look around you. On the street, on the subway, at a restaurant. I bet you see lots of people looking at their mobile phones. Today there are 5.2 billion mobile phone users across the globe; 2.1 billion of those are smartphones. Including tablets, there are more mobile devices in the world than people.

At a recent family gathering I noticed three of my nephews sitting next to each other on a couch, all staring down at their phones. The compulsion to stay plugged in has become so overwhelming I had to yell, “Put down the phones!” to get them to talk to the people around them. It’s difficult to look away from our texts, posts, news and scores when we hold the power of immediate information gratification in our hands.

The statistics are astounding:
• Consumers check their mobile devices 150x per day
• The average American spends almost 2 hours a day on a mobile device
• That’s more than 57 thousand hours over the course of a lifetime

In fact, time spent on mobile devices (2.8 hours/day) has surpassed time spent on desktops and laptops (2.4 hours/day). In April 2015 Google changed their algorithm to favor mobile sites. Over Thanksgiving weekend 102 million people shopped in brick and mortar stores… but 103 million people shopped with their phones. Mobile accounted for 57% of total online traffic. The kick-off of the holiday shopping season isn’t really Black Friday and Cyber Monday anymore: it’s Mobile Weekend.

The mantra for marketers is “Mobile First.” Mobile can no longer be an afterthought, it has to be our first thought about connecting to consumers. What other medium is with people virtually all day, from the time they wake up until they go to sleep, at home, school, work and play?

We need to consider the mobile experience first, but not in isolation. Mobile strategy should integrate with the rest of the marketing plan because mobile usage is integrated with the rest of our lives. Every interaction with a brand, whether in the digital or real world, is part of the customer journey and needs to present a consistent brand experience.

Coming from a traditional media background, I first became aware of mobile as a marketing platform in the form of display ads. Which kind of suck. The banners are tiny and hard to see, and approximately 50% of clicks are mistakes: people actually trying to get rid of the ads, not engage with them. But there are so many other tactics in the mobile marketer’s arsenal. Video. Apps. Mobile websites. SMS (text) messages. Email. Native advertising. Social media. Location-based services. QR codes. Search. Gaming. All of which can be monitored and measured to eliminate the guesswork of traditional marketing. With mobile, as with all digital marketing, evaluating key performance indicators can help us make informed decisions about what creative is working, whether we’re targeting the right people, and the return on our investment.

I have a love/hate relationship with mobile. As a marketer, I love the direct pipeline to consumers and ability to target audiences and offers. As a consumer, I love the connectivity, convenience and custom content. I use my phone to email and text, buy my train ticket, pre-order my coffee, get directions, find discount parking, deposit my checks and see if my son has left school yet. At this point I’m hooked and can’t picture life without it. Ask people what one device they’d want on a desert island, and I’d bet smartphones would win by a landslide.

As a member of society, however, I’m afraid that mobile devices are negatively impacting our ability to concentrate and interact with other human beings. We need to demonstrate self-restraint and set rules for our kids about when it’s appropriate to use our phones and when it’s not. Mobile devices should enhance our lives, not take them over. I know it’s easier said than done. Perhaps our mantra should be “People First, Mobile Second.”

Thanks to NYU adjunct professor @RayBeharry for most of the data referenced in this article.

Photo by nenetus

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