How marketers can seize the mobile moment

If you think responsive Web design meets your customers' needs, you better think again (and think fast).

Marketers and advertisers shudder when they think about the great consumer rush to mobile. With a smartphone's tiny screen and a mobile consumer's fleeting attention span, marketers face an enormous challenge capitalizing on mobility.

Yet marketers have no choice; they must seize the mobile moment, says a new Forrester report..

People are consuming mobile content more than ever -- mobile apps account for more time spent with media than desktop and mobile Web combined -- but they don't want to see display ads. Only two percent of online shoppers want to see offers from brands on their mobile devices, a Boxever survey found. Popular mobile media apps such as Buzzfeed, Facebook, LinkedIn, New York Times and Twitter don't support display ads.

So display ads are out for marketers.

Responsive design doesn't cut it

Even worse, marketers (and CIOs) have been treating mobility like a desktop extension. As a result, mobile users have to perform finger acrobatics to resize content meant for larger screens. Mobile users are on the move and looking for quick information on their mobile devices; they're not going to put with this for very long. From a technology standpoint, marketers need to put mobile first.

"Marketers who believe that responsive Web design will answer their prayers had better think again, as dynamically resized media won't address a customer's context in a mobile moment," says Forrester analyst Ryan Skinner in a report, Boost Contextual Reach with Content Marketing for Mobile.

Mobile marketing content itself is an entirely different animal. Messages need to be short, concise and relevant. Mobile users won't tolerate being bombarded with marketing pitches. This means marketers can spam customers with long-winded email like they do on the desktop.

Tailoring the mobile message for mobile users

Mobile users are, of course, on the move. When a mobile user searches for something to watch, the user is likely looking for a movie in a theater, not on a television set. Instead of, say, a desktop app that serves up recipes, the mobile app might be a shopping list for getting all the ingredients. Marketers must tailor their messages to the context of the mobile user.

One of the mistakes marketers make on mobile is delivering content that markets products. The smartphone is very personal, and mobile users don't want to turn their device into a billboard for advertisers. They'll hate you for it. Marketers who don't heed this advice and continue to push products over mobile are doomed to get abysmal conversion rates, not to mention turned-off customers, Skinner warns.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For starters, people will read or view content on their mobile devices more readily than on the desktop. For instance, customers engage with companies on social up to 10 percent more often from their smartphones or tablets than from PCs, Forrester says, which means valuable branded content in social feeds gets more exposure and engagement on smartphones.

Will mobile content kill journalism?

Content marketers can deliver their mobile content in a variety of ways, such as in-app and native advertising on social networks and publisher sites. In fact, Forrester says mobile will collapse media's separation of editorial and advertising, whereby mobile content on an app or mobile website will be dynamically assembled from many sources. So it'll be up to the marketer -- not a Fourth Estate editor -- to ensure mobile content doesn't sound like a sales job that turns off mobile users.

So where do mobile sales come from?

Once marketers build a relationship with customers over their mobile devices, they can monetize the relationship. For instance, outdoors retailer REI has a loyal following of mobile users willing to share their location data. Last year, REI sent a mobile message to customers who were near a store in the last three months telling them that the local store was having a GoPro training class. REI achieved a response rate four times greater than non-targeted messages, Forrester says.

While REI found some success with mobile content marketing, it isn't easy. Mobile relationships aren't formed overnight. It takes repeatedly winning the mobile moment using new marketing tech, data, analytics and, of course, engaging mobile content. The special needs and short attention span of the mobile user makes marketing's mantra of hitting "the right person at the right time with the right message" a very difficult target.

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