Marketing Through Your Mobile Companion

Our phones have become extensions of our arms; we feel like something is missing without it. It has reached the point where mobile phones account for more than 50% of internet usage, completely surpassing desktop internet usage. And not surprisingly, it’s all about the apps, which account for 85% of internet usage on mobile platforms. It’s also common now for us to use multiple devices for different things, such as checking the weather on our phones in the morning, using our desktop computers at work, or watching TV shows on our tablets at night. This makes the digital media landscape fragmented, something that will only continue to happen with the rising popularity of additional technologies such as Google Glass and smart watches. While this can be a significant marketing hurdle, if you take the time to understand how, where, and when someone consumes content and tailor it accordingly, you could be looking at large returns.

So, how can you capitalize on this information? Well, now that we know the majority of mobile users spend their time online in apps, that’s going to be a great place to advertise. According to ComScore, most app engagement comes from three categories: Social Networking, Games, and Radio. Alternatively, desktop users tend to use the internet for the categories of Search and News. Mobile phones are clearly used more for entertainment and communication, with consumers using apps such as Facebook, YouTube, and Pandora Radio. It’s also important to note that younger age segments tend to allocate their time more to leisure-oriented apps while older age segments spend their time using functional apps and games. This will help you tailor your advertising to not only the right apps, but also the right audience.

Here’s a few figures from ComScore that show where mobile users and desktop users spend the majority of their time, as well as where the majority of mobile users spend their app time.

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According to an article by VentureBeat, the majority of us would rather have a free app with ads than pay for an app without ads. But because of the unique user experience that apps provide, advertising techniques such as standard pre-rolls and traditional ad banners don’t really work here. It seems that users prefer interactive ads where they are in control. For example, say you’re playing a game and are in need of a life. Having a message pop up offering you the option to engage with a brand, let’s say NIke, in order to get more lives is the most effective use of in-app advertising. Apparently, this tactic can give you engagement rates as high as 20%, which is a vast improvement to typical ads on Facebook that can have click-through rates of a fraction of a percent. Furthermore, we prefer ads that are integrated into the experience instead of interruptive and annoying. This is why pre-roll ads don’t work; users want to either have a choice to play the ad or to have it play at a natural break in the app they are using.

Another interesting use of mobile apps is demonstrated by Starbucks. They actually created their own app, and incentivized the use of it by integrating their My Starbucks Rewards program into the app so that it can provide special discounts and freebies to users. Additionally, they’re going to integrate in-app orders into the design to cut wait times shorter at counters. For a brand that is so integrated into our daily lives, this is genius; we’re already there everyday anyway, so giving us something of value that will make our wait time shorter and provide us with additional deals is extremely valuable for us as consumers. But it’s also valuable for the brand, as they can use this app to cultivate loyal followers as well as gain important insight into their target market.


Another great example of app design is for the retail site Urban Outfitters. UO has an app that they call “Urban On”, and as an Urban On member, you get first dips on new sales, extra rewards, exclusive content, and access to private events. Why WOULDN’T you want to download that app if you’re often shopping at Urban Outfitters?! It’s got a simple interface with the same branding as their regular mobile site, but it makes your user experience on your mobile device so much better by adding these extra features.

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But mobile optimization isn’t JUST for apps. Having a website that is optimized for mobile use is becoming more important, now that internet usage on mobile devices is growing dramatically each year. I’m most interested in the application from an ecommerce perspective, so we’ll focus on that. According to The Moz Blog, the number of mobile conversions (aka sales for ecommerce sites) is only going to keep growing. That means having an optimized mobile site for easy purchasing is extremely important. A mobile commerce website that I really like is for Benefit Cosmetics. It’s extremely easy to navigate, and has great social integration and easy access to product reviews (which is extremely important for those of us buying beauty products!).

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It’s important to note that to reach as many users as you can, it might be a good idea to not only create your mobile website but also to create a user-friendly app. Most people spend their time online in apps while using their mobile phones, however, they spend the majority of their time in their favorite apps, not all apps. That makes it a little more difficult to determine whether your app is really more effective than your mobile site.

But PLEASE, if you’re going to create an app and mobile site, make sure it WORKS and adds VALUE to your brand; there’s nothing worse than an app and mobile site that just makes someone wish they could be using the exact same interface as they get on their desktop computer!


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