There is no denying that mobile is now seamlessly interwoven into our everyday lives, and there is clear evidence that it is only going to become more prevalent. Ofcom figures reveal that here in the UK, we have in fact reached saturation point, with an average of 91 per cent of people using mobile phones.
From the minute we wake up in the morning until we fall asleep gain at night, we are connected through our mobile devices. The mobile future is already here - and looking very much like it is at the centre of how people do things and will continue to do things in the future. So how can brands take advantage of the mobile future?
Mobile technology enables new ways of expressing our existing brand ideas and, conversely, enables marketers to explore new approaches. Marketers must make content exciting for users to actively engage with the content and importantly, to encourage them to want to interact with the brand time and time again. By satisfying and engaging with customers, brands have more opportunity than ever before to generate lasting and meaningful relationships.
Clever brands will recognise this and use mobile marketing to form relationships, rather than simply imposing a sales pitch. There are plenty of brands doing this well, but even more doing it wrong. Brands must instil creativity into their mobile marketing strategy to ensure they remain relevant and exciting to their customer base.
Exciting opportunities also come with their own problems. People simply find mobile advertising annoying. A recent YouGov report highlighted that almost two-thirds of Brits found mobile phones the most unacceptable device on which to receive unwanted advertising.
There is a real danger that we might start to do things because we could, rather than because we should. We are closer to our customers than ever before, and sometimes, from our customer’s point-of-view, too close. Brands need to find a balance of being visible, without being intrusive – ultimately they must be welcome on the mobile device.
Many brands are still failing to adapt their website to function on multiple devices. Multi-platform design is no simple task, but it is sure to be appreciated by users. Brands need to realise that with mobile, they are literally in the hands of their customers, and they should aim to make it as fulfilling an experience as possible.
A truly integrated approach means finding better ways to engage people, utilising the individual benefits of each device, in order to get people to actively engage. A perfect example of a brand winning this race is Asos. It has captured the essence of mobile perfectly, utilising direct email marketing, multi-platform apps, and integrated iPhone Augmented Reality, synced to their print and digital magazines. This seamless multi-device and multiplatform technique attracted more than £1m sales in its first quarter after the launch of the first Facebook store in Europe.
Technologically boring, socially interesting
For technology to be transformed into something useful and relevant to consumers, it must be mixed with creativity. Technology is only useful to the layman by being relevant, and it is when technology is used in a creative way that this can happen.
Much of the answer comes from getting past the technological bit. In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky states: "Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring." If the conversation is about the technology per se, then the ability for it to impact on the human condition is limited. The technology begins to possess transformational properties once the conversation shifts to whatever purpose has been found for the technology.
This is difficult to get right. In many cases the technology is there, but the relevance isn’t. In order to create business value, we need to make sure there is a bridge between technology and human desires. The key is to apply the traditional knowledge of branding and marketing and apply it to modern technologies. This is brought to life in the rise of social media marketing.
Social networking is by no means new human behaviour; however, when this human behaviour was merged with technology, and more recently, mobile, it took on a new level of visibility and prevalence in society, and therefore, an increased importance for brands.
It is now impossible to avoid conversation surrounding the commercial value of Facebook, Twitter and other online social platforms. To return to the example of Asos, it has once again been a leader in this field, launching one of the first integrated Facebook stores, complimented by its YouTube channel that provides direct links to items of clothing to purchase when users place their mouse over featured videos.
The message is clear, mobile is here to stay. It is embedded in the centre of human behaviour, creating a whole world of possibilities, many of which are still unknown and untapped. But brands must tread carefully, because with this centrality comes annoyance at interruption. It’s about being useful, interesting and entertaining, rather than spammy. We must consider switching our thinking to mobile first, focusing the creative to meet the technology, rather than squashing uncomfortably against it.
Mobile is finally living up to its potential, now it is up to us as marketers to think mobile.
James Devon is planning director at MBA