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Think Small to Win Big: How Mobile is Dominating the Marketing Ecosystem

Ceara Milligan

July 14, 2017

Fun fact #1: The average American adult spends a total of 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. Let’s do the math (I’m guessing you’ll use your phone’s Calculator app instead the TI-89 you used in high school algebra). That’s about 86 hours a month spent staring at tiny glowing screens.

We use our mobile phones for just about everything these days: communication, entertainment, photography, navigation, staying informed of news and updates, shopping, searching, and simply passing time. Our phones have essentially become extensions of our bodies. We take them with us just about everywhere. Think about the last time you went to the lavatory. Did you stare at the stall door or bathroom wall, or did you scroll through your Instagram feed and like every one of your friends’ photos at rapid fire speed?

Fun fact #2 (no pun intended): 61% of people admit to using their cell phone in the bathroom. (Gross? Maybe. Verifiable? Perhaps keep that one to yourself…)

Mobile is undoubtedly the most popular digital medium, and for warranted reason. Not only do our smartphones and tablets provide us with all the information we need and connect us with anyone in the world at any time; we can take them with us anywhere. Mobile now accounts for about 65% of total digital media consumption, significantly more than desktop and laptop computers. And that number will only increase in the very near future. The global mobile app revenue is predicted to reach $77 billion in 2017. It’s also expected that there will be 197 billion mobile app downloads this year, up from 149 billion in 2016.

It’s quite mind-blowing how the role of mobile phones has transformed even over the past few years. They started as just another way to communicate, and now, they are vital tools to experience the whole world from our fingertips—literally. Over half of video content is now viewed on mobile. Whether you’re catching up on the local news, streaming the latest Netflix series, watching another round of “Carpool Karaoke,” or witnessing the Golden Eagles blow another lead, all of these can be experienced within the palm of your hand.

Mobile technologies have made numerous major changes across industries. Here are just a few of the biggest trends in mobile for 2017 and beyond:

  1. With an increasing number of connected devices and the prevalence of the Internet of Things, the dominance of mobile extends into the offline realm. It has become the default remote for all connected devices, including home thermometers, safety systems, appliances, and smartwatches.
  2. Search is increasingly becoming mobile-first. Search engine titan Google announced in November 2015 it would be shifting to mobile-first indexing. In other words, websites that are mobile-friendly will appear further up on search engine results pages (aka SERP’s). Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile may not be so lucky. Businesses should make sure their website contains valuable content that can be picked up by Google’s mystifyingly powerful mobile ranking algorithm.
  3. Social networks have made it easy for brands to get messages in front of their fans and followers while they’re out and about. For example, Facebook ads and offers can be pushed out to specific mobile users while they’re in their favorite store store looking for a hot deal.
  4. Social frontrunners Instagram and Snapchat are mobile-first platforms, meaning they can only be experienced from our mini handheld computers.
  5. Location-based services have made headway with the help of geolocation technology. Your phone’s GPS feature detects when you’re approaching a location, and will serve up recommendations for products and services that are strides away. (Ever been notified you that you should probably buy coffee at 4:00pm since you’re 50 feet away from a Starbucks?)
  6. Bank branch too far away or closed for the day? Hakuna matata. Banking and finance apps have made it a cinch to pay bills, send and receive money, create and track budgets, and deposit checks in seconds.
  7. Mobile payment options, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, give consumers the freedom to leave their wallets at home (or safely in their purses and pockets). Scan to pay, then walk away.
  8. Plan your next much-needed vacation worry-free. Flights, cars, and hotels can be booked by tapping a few buttons on today’s travel sites and apps.
  9. Augmented reality (AR) is changing the game for mobile. For example, Google Translate allows users to snap a photo of text in a foreign language, and the app will translate it to their native tongue in real time. Warby Parker’s app allows customers to virtually “try on” their entire line of specs before finding the best fit and placing an order. And I probably don’t need to explain the Pokémon Go craze of 2016, but you get the picture…

So, what does all of this mean for brands and marketers? How do you effectively stay engaged with your target audience, including everyone from your laggards and prospects to your most reliable loyalists and dedicated advocates? The obvious answer is to be where they are at all times. Marketers must tightly weave mobile into their foundational brand and digital strategies as well as pay close attention to how, when, where, and why consumers are on their gadgets in order to serve them the information they need at all the right moments. Thanks to mobile, we can deliver content and advertising experiences that are truly in the interest of the individual consumer.

What about our other digital devices? As consumers, our increased physical and emotional dependency on our smartphones is raising the bar high for brands, and it will continue to heighten as we become more reliant on information that is available to us around the clock. We frequently switch between our devices throughout the day: desktop at the office, mobile on the go, tablet everywhere between. We not only want, but also expect, brands to keep up with our wavering demands and quickly provide the information we need whenever and wherever we need it. With this, brands should not focus solely on mobile devices. Instead, they need to create appropriate messaging that suits their targets’ ever-changing multi-device behavior.

By now, it should be clear that mobile is no longer a “nice-to-have” in the marketing mix. As it continues to expand its role as a connection and convergence device, mobile should be at the core of brands’ digital ecosystems. However, “traditional” media such as print, TV, and radio still attract the lion’s share of advertising budgets across industries. To put it simply, dollars spent on mobile marketing don’t add up to the time we religiously spend on our devices. Companies need to shift gears, but not go full throttle into one direction.

At the end of the day, all marketers, brands, and everyday consumers can all agree on one simple strategy: Think small to win big.