Smartphones everywhere

Matt Bush, director of agencies at Google UK, looks at the takeaways for mobile marketers from last week’s MWC.
Mobile World Congress has, as ever, inspired a round of gadget fever: foldable phones, gesture-controlled handsets and – of course – the dawn of 5G. For mobile marketers, it’s clear there is plenty of change coming in this fast-moving space. But much of what we saw at MWC was future-gazing – in particular in terms of 5G, which is still a long way away from impacting consumers on an everyday level. For marketers, the questions is what at MWC should we be taking note of for this year’s mobile strategy?

Increased accessibility to smartphones
The widening of the competitive space around smartphones is significant for marketers. The multiple unveilings of shiny new hardware at MWC reflects the fact that top of the range smartphones are becoming ever more accessible and affordable to a wider group of people. Access to these phones will fast outpace access to 5G, which means it’s something marketers need to consider today.

The speed of these machines in everyday scenarios will impact the expectations around speed of service, UX and mobile site speed even further – with consumers unable to accept slow or glitchy mobile sites as part of a service that is otherwise excellent. Understanding that every point on the purchase journey needs to be fast enough to hold attention will become ever more crucial for marketers – as will making the case for this to key stakeholders and decision makers within the business.

The mobile web is the most used widely used platform in the world. Despite this, most websites are currently not built for mobile – mobile is usually an afterthought or tag on. The job of mobile marketers is to demonstrate to the C-Suite that not only is mobile already essential to their bottom line, but it’s only becoming more so. 65 per cent of UK adults use their smartphones as the primary device to go online, and as our phones become ever cheaper and can even fold to different sizes, this is not a trend we’re going to see reverse any time soon.

Marketing and analytics teams should therefore be continually measuring and optimising for new revenue opportunities, to prove the value of mobile and why executives should be prioritising mobile development as a key business KPI. Designers should be familiar with mobile UX best practices and work closely with developers to create the best possible experiences. Developers need to be up to speed on the latest mobile development tools and techniques, as optimising ageing legacy systems may hold back mobile teams over the long term. For example, modern web technologies like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA) can help enhance the user experience through allowing fast access to attractive and easy to use mobile sites.

Natural brand interactions
The way we interact with tech is becoming increasingly similar to how we interact with each other. Following LG unveiling a taste of tech allowing users to control phones with hand signals at MWC, mobile marketers should be thinking about how to approach gesture control in the long term.

A mobile marketer can surmise from the little information available on this particular technology that it means people will keep finding easier ways to communicate with devices and brands. We’re already seeing this in terms of voice-activated searches. Almost 70 per cent of queries to Google assistant are made in natural language – that is, people speaking in full sentences as opposed to the keyword searches we type into a search box. Gestures could bring even more natural interactions into this relationship. The way to prepare is to ensure that any brand website is answering the questions its customers will be looking to answer. For example, when people ask a machine the way they’d ask a shop assistant ‘where’ or ‘how’ to do something, the brand website should be able to answer that question.

MWC is always interesting for the marketer – what’s next in mobile is invariably what’s next in advertising. The key takeaways for me this year are that mobile is becoming even more important as part of the consumer journey and experience, and that the relationship between consumer and brand needs to become easier for the end user.