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Top five mobile misses of 2011

Mobile grew significantly in 2011 as consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets took off, thereby opening up new opportunities for brands and agencies to reach an audience via these devices. While there were some significant wins this year - such as PayPal expecting $5 billion in mobile sales this year and big brands such as Coca-Cola, BMW and others pouring more money in mobile ? there were some misses, too.

Miscalculations are to be expected in any nascent industry and mobile marketing is no exception. However, it is important that marketers learn from these mistakes and do not repeat them in 2012 so that mobile growth can continue along at a healthy pace.

Therefore, here are the top five misses in mobile for 2011, in no particular order.

Dedicated check-in apps lose steam
A year ago, dedicated check-ins such as Foursquare and Gowalla were all the rage. However, the excitement began to wear off in 2011 as retailers began to consider what was in the equation for them and introduced their own mobile shopping apps with check-in features instead.

When the Gowalla team headed over to Facebook earlier this week and said the Gowalla service will soon end, it became clear that dedicated check-in apps may have missed the boat.  

?One of the biggest misses in 2011 was the failure of the check-in as a dedicated app to catch on - such as Foursquare and Gowalla - which were on fire last year and seem to have hit a ceiling in terms of consumer interest,? said Josh Martin, director of app research for the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, Newton, MA. 

?The check in could have offered an opportunity to verify reviews, provide location for mobile couponing and local deals,? he said. ?But I think concerns over privacy and integration of these features into apps that leverage location really took over.

?Also, with location being persistently available the check-in may not be as important.?

Mobile advertising lacks innovation
Mobile offers advertisers new opportunities for interacting with consumers yet many still miss the point and simply take their PC Web creative and stick it on a mobile ad.

?We have come a long way since beginning of the year,? said Anne Frisbie, vice president and managing director of InMobi North America, San Mateo, CA. ?Early on, people were trying to re-purpose their PC web creative, and weren't using the power of HTML5. 

?We've seen a big change and a greater number of advertisers are now leveraging HTML5,? she said. ? With that said, we still have a long way to go in terms of mobile-specific assets beyond banners, including mobile websites, landing pages, and app experiences. 

?We need to see more investment in the industry for mobile optimized sites or in-app experiences, not just the creative.?

Potential mobile sales lost
While many retailers are experimenting with mobile marketing via email and social media, many still do not have a Web site that is optimized for mobile consumers. As a result, mobile traffic lands on a standard Web site that converts few sales.

?Trying mobile marketing is easier than building a mobile commerce site,? said Wilson Kerr, Boston-based mobile marketing consultant. ?IT resource constraints and a lack of understanding about the different options available means that retails has waited.

?Google reported this year that 78 percent of their online retailers do not have a mobile site, yet nearly all are engaged in mobile marketing,? he said. ?This lack of tracked incremental revenue, as linked to mobile marketing stunts the growth of the entire mobile space.?

The issues extend to how retailers are addressing tablets as well.

With research showing that many consumers are using tablets to shop, retailers would seem to be a likely segment to dive into tablets. However, many retailers still do not offer mobile experiences optimized for tablet devices, which is a big miss for them this holiday season when mobile sales are taking off.

?Most retail brands are missing out on the opportunity to optimize their dotcom for tablet use - mcommerce typically converts much better for tablets than for smartphones - and often confuse the initiative with creating smart phone apps or smartphone optimized Web sites with the worst mistake of sending customers on a tablet to a smartphone optimized Web site,? said David Hewitt, vice president and global mobile practice lead for SapientNitro, Boston.

Agencies drop the ball
While mobile has grown quickly this year, some agencies have failed to grasp the significance of mobile and, as a result, have not made it a big focus of their efforts for brands.

?Many agencies are still using mobile as an afterthought campaign tactic and missing the mark on how to best marry creative with mobile and leverage mobile as an experience and not just a messaging channel,? SapientNitro?s Mr. Hewitt said.

The problem is that when agencies fail to recognize the significance of mobile then brands miss out on opportunities to engage their audience and the results that could drive further mobile growth are not there.

?Agencies have played a role in stunting the growth of mobile marketing, in my opinion, as they seem to want to shield their clients from the concrete revenue numbers that mobile marketing - as a driver of tracked mobile commerce - can generate,? Mr.Kerr said.

OEMs struggle to adjust
Mobile device manufacturers such as Research In Motion failed to anticipate how quickly sales for feature phones would collapse and, as a result, were not prepared to take advantage of the quick growth in smartphones.

At the same time, several manufacturers also stumbled in tablets with offerings that were not differentiated enough nor priced right. This lead to companies such as Hewlett Packard, Dell and RIM backtracking in tablets.

?On the manufacturer end, RIM continues to make blunders on both the smartphone and tablet space and underestimate the penetration and speed by which Android and iOS have taken hold of the enterprise market,? SapientNitro?s Mr. Hewitt said.

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