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What millennials reveal about the future of mobile marketing

Brands such as Facebook and Abercrombie & Fitch are finding it harder to win over and keep teen consumers in part because of their mobile habits. As millennials mature and mobile habits change more broadly, other marketers are also likely to struggle in maintaining their grip on consumers.

Millennials engage with brands, content and each other via mobile differently than other consumers and, as they mature, marketers who are not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to meet those needs could suffer. Already, Facebook is seeing a decrease in daily users among teenagers while these same consumers? growing mobile shopping habit is siphoning sales away from traditional teen retailers such as Abercrombie.

?Unless Facebook evolves, mobile marketing will not be as dominated by Facebook because Facebook is useful for only a specific task and set of activities today, and it does not cover a large part of the consumers and their activities and needs online,? said Erich Joachimsthaler, founder/CEO of Vivaldi Partners Group, New York.

?Marketers will have to decide what consumers they target and how they engage them; the types of engagement are significantly different from one consumer segment to another,? he said.

Social engagement
It is already well understood that engaging on social networking sites is one of the most popular activities on mobile.

To date, this has been good news for Facebook, which has seen its mobile use grow significantly over the past couple of years.

However, if today?s teenagers mobile habits are any indication, in the future consumers will spend their social networking time not in one central hub such as Facebook but across a variety of sites and apps.

In other words, as social networking via mobile becomes more the norm, niche-oriented offerings are likely to gain momentum by meeting the needs of individual audience segments. After all, teens are not going to feel comfortable communicating with their friends on the same site where their parents are posting photos of their children?s latest antics.

Seeing is believing
Young consumers are also looking for more personal ways to engage with friends.

This is why messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat, both of which also have social components, are very popular with teens right now.

This suggests that an opportunity already exists for brands to reach these users with mobile advertising and that it will only grow going forward.

?Messaging apps are exploding, we are seeing a huge volume of real-time ad impressions available on mobile exchanges,? said Howie Schwartz, founder/CEO of Human Demand, New York. ?The messenger app inventory often passes demographic and location information which we use for advanced targeting, which is a big benefit for brands.?

Additionally, the current generation of teens is more image-oriented and prefers to communicate via images, videos and gifs. Hence the popularity of apps such as Snapchat, which enables users to take and send photos that erase within a few seconds.

This suggests that video and image-based mobile experiences will only become more important going forward.

On their own terms
However, messaging apps could also face diminished potential going forward if they do not evolve to take advantage of all that mobile has to offer.

?Messaging apps are only useful to the extent they become more intelligent by capturing contextual information, location, social, data from sensors and integrate Big Data to make the user experience more relevant and more meaningful,? Vivaldi Partners Group?s Mr. Joachimsthaler said.

?This is the future that is right under our nose, hidden in plain sight, but a reality by 2015,? he said.

While teens are interested in socializing via mobile, many seek to avoid face-to-face or telephone conversations.

This presents a challenge for retailers and customer service representatives that can be addressed via mobile.

?Texting, social media and other online communication have all given this talk-without-really-talking generation the ability to communicate on their own terms: at their convenience, without having to make eye contact, without judgment and with some degree of anonymity,? said Duke Chung, co-founder of Parature, Herndon, VA.

?They are also able to control the conversation, determining the length, the direction and if and when they will respond - and via what channel,? he said.

?Brands must give teens and their always-connected nature their full attention, as they are tomorrow?s next generation of customers.?

Mobile shopping
Teens are also avid mobile shoppers and, with the medium playing such a big role in how teens socialize, they are frequenting malls less. Instead, they are enlisting their smartphones to post pictures of outfits they like to get the opinions of their friends.

As a result, traditional mall-based teen retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch are seeing sales drop.

At the same time, mobile is helping to drive results for online retail brands that embrace this social shopping.

For example, Brandy Melville USA has a full social strategy across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest to help it reach teens.

Going forward, having a well-rounded mobile social strategy is likely going to be a necessity for more brands.

First to know
Recent research by NetBase and Edison Research shows that it is very important for millennials to be the first to know about a new product. With mobile device?s always within arm?s reach for these consumers, sending them a text or posting about a new product on social media can be a good way to drive awareness of a new product.

?Nearly one-quarter of millennials say they are willing to pay a higher price to be the first to have a new product, compared to 15 percent of all female social media users,? said Gretchen Hoffman, vice president of marketing at NetBase, Mountain View, CA.

?We call this the ?First to Know? promotions, and they can be relatively straightforward to execute through social channels, and they address an important psychological need for millennials,? she said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York