There are exciting times ahead for mobile phones, according to the futurists. The next few years promise an abundance of opportunities for brands to get ever closer to consumers through their smart phones. The Futures Company sees the mobile device becoming a combination identity card, wallet and portal to resources stored in the cloud—all safe and secure because of facial recognition and voice control. McKinsey predicts that consumers will expect the data that they share on their mobile devices –networks, location, shopping preferences and much more—will translate into hyper-targeted, personalised experiences.
There’s only one problem with these exciting views of mobile’s evolution. Marketers are, unfortunately, barely managing to meet the needs of today’s consumer, never mind preparing for tomorrow’s. For all the industry banter about mobile-first strategies, channel offerings are still falling short of all that the technology allows and consumers expect.
Today, consumer needs are relatively simple. Consumers want a consistent online experience from their brands of choice, whether on mobile, tablet or PC. They want to use their smart phones for what should be basic tasks, like banking, checking into flights, browsing products or making transactions. They want to feel connected to the people that matter. They want to download apps that are actually useful, not just one-off novelties.
Tomorrow, emerging technologies will enable smart phones to be intimate companions that know who and where the consumer is, understand preferences, anticipate needs, and communicate with applications and other objects to fulfill them. In a world where on-demand marketing will be the norm, McKinsey predicts that consumers will judge brands on their ability to deliver “heightened experiences.” Every offer will be personalised and location-specific; complicated services will be gamified; tapping a phone on a product will trigger an ecosystem of messaging, all tied into social networks.
Yet the industry seems far from ready. In fact, the Mobile Marketing Association found that less than a third of brand advertisers in Asia-Pacific have a formal mobile strategy in place, and 40 per cent reported only small increases in mobile marketing spend. Marketers in the US, UK and Europe are faring little better. Forrester found that just 45 per cent of marketers had defined a clear road map for mobile covering the next six months and only 37 per cent felt they had the necessary budget to pursue their mobile initiatives. The industry may have embraced mobile as the next big thing but, according to the annual plans and budgets, mobile is still not the strategic priority it should be.
Taking the argument further, Thomas Husson, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, wrote in a recent blog that marketers are too busy playing with “trendy technology” like augmented reality, building unnecessary apps and experimenting responsive websites. Instead, they should be focused on making life easier for their consumers, whether that’s by connecting apps to customer relationship management systems or tailoring online experiences based on platforms. Marketers should also be planning ahead for the time when a significant proportion of their Internet traffic comes from smart phones, instead of the single digit percentages currently seen in most markets.
Before that trickle of online traffic turns into a flood, marketers need to begin the long, hard task of re-imagining what the brand experience looks like when it’s centered around and facilitated by mobile devices. It’s time for marketers to say goodbye to partially functioning mobile sites and gimmicky apps. It’s time for marketers to ante up more than just a small fraction of their budgets to mobile platforms. With the future of marketing now inextricably linked to mobile devices, brand leaders must now shift their focus to strategies that truly add value to the lives of consumers.
Stephanie Myers is the engagement director, Asia-Pacific, at Possible.