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Mobile is the new black

Mobile continues to grow at a rapid pace and marketers are continually implementing QR codes, SMS, mobile advertising and applications into their marketing efforts to reach consumers on every medium possible.

Television and print used to be the go-to channels where marketers were able to connect with consumers and build brand awareness. However, over the past few years, mobile has been gradually used in a company?s day-to-day initiatives and nowadays, a majority of campaigns out there have a mobile element to them.

?Black is always in style, it just has to be used for the right context and in the right amounts,? said Chris Mason, cofounder/CEO of Branding Brand.

?Yes, mobile is the new black,? he said. ?Moving forward, it should always be considered as part of your marketing strategy ? although, more often than not, people are using it as a panacea.

?Mobile has to be situation ? and context-relevant more than any other part of your solution set.?

Growing trend
Device usage continues to increase at a rapid speed.

Marketers are moving past the initial experimental phase and looking at ways to better target and reach consumers.

Companies are turning to various channels such as SMS, QR codes, mobile advertising and augmented reality as a way to drive user engagement.

SMS is a great medium to reach a big audience.

Additionally, marketers are placing calls-to-action on TV commercials, print and products to not only increase their databases, but continue to reach consumers with relevant and personalized offers.

The same goes for QR codes.

Although there continues to be a love/hate relationship with the technology, marketers are putting mobile bar codes just about anywhere ? billboards, bus shelters and print advertisements.

By developing a mobile-first strategy and hopping on the every-changing bandwagon, marketers are making sure they are reaching the always busy on-the-go consumers.

?This trend will continue moving forward, but with less of a wild-west approach as found in early-on experimentation,? Mr. Mason said. ?It is clear now that QR codes have their place and that SMS is just one part of your outbound messaging strategy.

?We believe retailers will start focusing more and more on mobile usage for in-store experiences,? he said. ?One thing is for sure, the purchase funnel just got a lot shorter, which means less opportunities for ads to surface.

?Customers can now be connected to relevant businesses within seconds and by taking one action, whether it's scanning a bar code, talking to Siri or opening an app. No extra clicks, no fuss.?

Mobile effect
Clearly, marketers are seeing that a mass audience on mobile is being built today.

Therefore, they need to find the best ways to speak to them effectively. 

?In reality mobile is one of the best ways to get everything in the ?new black? ? social, commerce, and local,? said Mike Wehrs, CEO and president of ScanLife.

?We are continuing to see huge increases in marketer adoption around connecting traditional media to mobile,? he said.

According to the executive, the audience is there.

However, marketers need to use mobile in relevant and intelligent ways that really add value to the customer experience. 

"Mobile is still a light shade of gray, per Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. "Despite all the media hype, the majority of businesses do not have a mobile site or a road map in place to tap into the power of this increasingly potent new consumer touch point.

"Mobile Web sites, mobile apps, tablet sites, in-store engagement, social media, branding, push advertising, deals, loyalty programs, coupons, point-of-sale ? all of these elements need to be taken into account and, most importantly, measured and adjusted for maximum return," he said.

"While many are dabbling, my opinion is that we are just at the beginning, regarding mobile engagement."
Mobile is an exciting new way to reach consumers.

However, the question is not whether marketers are able to reach them, but whether they will engage with them and once they engage, what they will make from this opportunity.

"Businesses sell things," Mr. Kerr said. "This is what they do.

"Whether online, or in their stores, their mission is to convert sales," he said. "By linking mobile marketing and mobile commerce, smart businesses can deliver special deals and incentives that  award consumers when they take advantage of an opportunity delivered to them, when and where they are most likely to act.
According to Mr. Kerr, retailers are starting to move from an ecommerce-integrated mobile commerce site, to tablet sites and commerce-enabled apps.

"The retailers I work with are realizing that each mobile channel is subtly different and that making small tweaks to the delivery can increase conversion rates by percentage points," Mr. Kerr said. "Consumers generally do not walk around with tablets in their pockets, for example.

"And no laptop has ever scanned a QR code," he said. "A single site that works for all channels is not the right approach and no longer is a short cut transcode site up to snuff.

"As the understanding of retailers matures, they are starting to embrace a holistic connected approach that conjoins mobile commerce and mobile marketing. As 2012 progresses, this will deepen."

Up to brands
According to Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, New York, mobile is neither new nor trendy.

?It?s up to brands and not vendors to determine if mobile's time is here,? Mr. Hasen said. ?Actually those chasing the hippest in mobile are often the ones failing in mobile.

?The most successful programs, like Ford's 15.4 percent lead conversion and Macy's expanding Backstage Pass in-store campaign, involve proven products and services like SMS and the mobile Web,? he said.

?Happily, for the most part, brand marketers are smarter than to fall for shiny objects that often only move their businesses backward.?

Mr. Hasen also believes that mobile advertising's moment is here because brands need to go where consumers are as opposed to where they've been.

?Of course, it's early and traditional media spends far outpace mobile ones,? Mr. Hasen said. ?Mobile gives brands the ability to provide relevant, contextual information and offers and the promise of a one-to-one rather than one-to-many relationship.

?Smart marketers are thinking post-click or install as well, seeking to turn what could be a one-time interaction into the beginning of a monetizable relationship,? he said. ?Mobile marketing and mobile advertising are maturing.

?Consumers expect to see their favorite brands delivering top-notch mobile executions. In fact, more and more, they are punishing brands that fail to deliver. Mobile's growth is accelerating due to more consumer interest, innovation, and proof of success that has come in the industry's earliest years.?

Pushing relevant content on-demand and reward consumers for opting in will be a huge impact for marketers going forward.

"Marketers are increasingly using different mediums," said Norm Levy, founder of ShoutOmatic. "They must if they want to remain current and relevant.

"The manner in which they exploit these technologies, however, determine their success or failure," he said.

"Mobile has the potential to be the best targeted reach as well as the easiest form for opt-ins."

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York