Which (mobile) marketing investments will give you the biggest returns in 2013?

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At the turn of the year, it’s natural to think through how changing digital technologies give opportunities and challenges to help shape priorities for marketing in the year ahead. Thinking about the potential impact of innovations in technology and the opportunities they give is a year-round preoccupation for me. Fortunately, I’m required to keep up-to-date on the latest techniques through the year to help inform my books, training courses and monthly summaries on SmartInsights.com.

In this post, I will look at the trend which I think will have the biggest impact on achieving growth in digital marketing and Ecommerce in 2013.

I'm taking the commercial angle since it's all too easy to be swept away by the latest tech innovations which – although interesting and ‘cool’ – will likely have little impact on your business in the year ahead. For example, in the first edition of my Emarketing Excellence, written in 2002, my co-author PR Smith wrote in the Etools chapter about wearable PCs, Internet-connected fridges, mobile browsing and interactive TV. Yet for the next ten years they had had very little real commercial impact.

There are reviews every year of the latest intriguing technologies – indeed we're still taking about the ‘Internet of things’, the 50 billion everyday objects which it is predicted will be connected to the Internet by the end of the decade. In March 2012, ARM announced its new chip codenamed ‘Flycatcher’, a one millimetre chip with a small battery that lasts for years, which will bring life to the Internet of things.

There are certainly some intriguing applications already in place, like the connected parking meters on trial in San Francisco where motorists can identify free spaces from their mobile phone, reserve the spot, and pay online.

So, we have to be aware of "shiny object syndrome". I agree with what Jeff Bezos of Amazon says:

  • "There are always shiny things. A company shouldn't get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn't last. You really want something that's much deeper-keeled. You want your customers to value your service".

In 2013, my recommendation is to look carefully at your investments in mobile marketing. We recently asked Smart Insights readers about their top priorities for investment in 2013 and mobile marketing was the top choice, narrowly beating content marketing. So which mobile marketing investments should you consider in 2013?

In 2012 we have seen many new examples and a lot of discussion about responsive design and mobile-optimised sites. The new Coca Cola corporate site has been rightly commended for its responsive design and also how it integrates social sharing. Some responsive designs like the Coke site are well-thought through and scale across different device resolutions, but others are not ‘upwardly responsive’, and whilst working well on  smartphones or tablets, don't work so well at higher resolutions used by the majority of users. Don't throw out the baby with the Bathwater! Mobile designs are more of a challenge for retailers with the many different page template types and the risk of reducing conversion rates if you don't get it right. Take a look at the Folksy.com design for one retail brand that I think gets responsive design right.

Although there has been a lot of discussion on mobile design, a successful Mcommerce strategy should really focus on creating new propositions and new experiences for a brand that integrate well with other channels. Debenhams has done a great job of this with its mobile strategy involving creating a new in-store proposition where its app supports stock checking for promotions and sizing. The company has rolled out Wifi across many UK stores to support this.

Developing apps won't be the best decision in all cases. It's estimated that nearly half of apps are just used once after download. Ex-eBay design lead Luke Wroblewski predicts that apps will become less common in future as HTML5 capabilities evolve, but larger brands will need to support apps, because of the popularity of apps with users and the improved experiences you can build. He says:

  • "If you can do it with the Web – do it with the Web. It’s faster, cheaper, and easier. The user experience gap is going to close, but not all the way. Native will always have a user experience edge".

To help make the case for mobile and make the most of the opportunities, you need to explain the full range of interactions beyond mobile commerce like those shown on the diagram and then review the business case for this. Will an app give significant incremental reach or revenue?  I recommend that you start developing your strategy, not by thinking about mobile sites or apps, but instead think about the different situations where consumers use mobiles and what your brand can offer them in these contexts.

When a strategy for creating the mobile brand experiences has been developed, then the options to reach new audiences and encourage adoption of these services can be reviewed. The diagram shows the range of options. Mobile brand discovery mainly involves promotional push to encourage adoption of mobile services and interaction with the brand, plus pull via SEO or AdWords as customers use search, publisher sites, messaging and offline ads (for example through QR codes).  Since mobile advertising in AdWords and mobile display is relatively new, it is not yet as competitive as it is for the desktop audience in many sectors. This can give savvy organisations that use the new mobile ad extension an edge. When I was chairing a session at Mobile Marketing Live in the Autumn, I heard how European clothing retailer Zalando has been able to rapidly grow its sales in European countries through use of AdWords.

All the best for adapting your strategies to mobile in 2013. It's clear that for businesses where there is a sweet spot of mobile usage impressive opportunities are available. The success of the early adopters in mobile platforms shows the opportunity. For Autoglass, mobile visitors to its site increased from around 15% at the end of 2011 to nearly 40% by end 2012. In 2011 Betfair's mobile platforms generated £1 billion of bets. For 2012 they estimate that figure will reach £2 billion.

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