Was 2012 finally the year of the mobile? The industry debates

By Chris Lee

The term “year of the mobile” has been around for a while, with each year kicking off with predictions of that particular year being the period when mobile finally comes of age.

Data from this year certainly points to an impressive twelve months for the mobile industry. In February 2012, market watcher Nielsen revealed that smartphone adoption in the US had nearly reached 50 per cent of mobile subscribers. Similar figures from pollster YouGov in May 2012 said they expected UK smartphone penetration to hit 55 per cent by May 2013. Researchers at Forrester also revealed that in 35 per cent of marketers planned to run mobile campaigns over 2012.

NMK tapped into its contacts book to see if the industry believed that 2012 was indeed the “year of the mobile”.

Mobile marketing matures

For Martin Smith of marketing automation software firm Neolane, 2012 was the year that mobile marketing truly came of age, enabled by through technological advancement and the cultural adoption of social and mobile communication.

He cited the emergence of Social Local Mobile (SoLoMo) marketing as one of the key standouts. SoLoMo is an approach to permission-based direct marketing that allows brands to take advantage of today’s smartphone and social media culture, combined with the customer profiling capabilities afforded by Big Data, to present targeted and location-aware mobile marketing and advertising content that’s optimised for social sharing. Smith cited Coffee chain Starbucks’ Foursquare-based discount programme is an example of SoLoMo in action.

“You can think of SoLoMo as a relevance multiplier for the organisation, allowing brands to seek contextually relevant engagement with consumers simultaneously in the digital and real world,” Smith said. “It’s about offering a consistent and engaging experience that ties a consumer’s physical location with a digital dimension presented via mobile.”

For Nicolle Pangis, president of Internet advertising firm Real Media Group, 2012 may have finally been the year of the mobile but it certainly was not the year of mobile advertising.

“Smartphones are everywhere but advertising adoption rates are still very slow, mainly because mobile needs to be part of a larger strategy,” she told NMK. “The industry needs to develop real standards so that both advertisers and publishers can easily create a multichannel digital strategy and deploy it across mobile devices.”

Avoid mobile at your peril

Conversely, Caspar Craven, CEO of customer intelligence consultancy Trovus, does not believe that 2012 was the year of the mobile.

“It’s certainly mainstream and you ignore it at your peril. Indeed, organisations need to look very seriously at mobile,” he said.

Trovus has analysed a number of websites representing 20 million page views a year, to analyse mobile traffic trends in 2012 and witnessed a steady increase in mobile-related traffic through the year. While six per cent of visits came from mobile, some 46 per cent came from iPads.

“It’s noticeable what traffic is on at what time and day – evenings and the weekends,” he continued. “We’re seeing significant variations between different firms in terms of how much mobile traffic they get and how engaged they then become. I think companies will need to take a view on how much of their website is mobile and how engaged are people with this; and whether the company needs to invest specifically in more mobile. I don’t think this will be for everyone, but for some it is a strategic battleground that it’s imperative to be present in.”

But for Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at marketing agency LBi, the year of the mobile has already been and now brands must build on growing mobile use.

“The year of the mobile passed stealthily a few years ago; it was the year when people stopped blaming their phone for a poor brand experience and started blaming the brand,” he concluded. “In 2012 customers certainly expected to have mobile friendly digital experiences with companies.”

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