Another year pronounced as the ‘year of mobile’. While pundits have been saying this every year for as long as I can remember, it is more true now as mobile device adoption reaches critical mass. Yet in the rush to embrace all things mobile, there’s still something lagging in our industry.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not diminishing mobile’s ascendancy in 2012. It was definitely a banner year for mobile: subscriptions hit a whopping six billion, many new devices hit the market and Apple and Google’s app stores exploded with new apps – a combined total of 1.4 million. With the entire planet going mobile, brands and marketers that aren’t already onboard will be close behind.
What was missing in the last ‘year of mobile’ wasn’t adoption or devices. It was analytics, measurement and the embracing of mobile’s differences. The analytics and measurement I speak of refers to a marketer’s ability to measure the effectiveness of mobile engagement, be it advertising, push notifications, SMS or mobile email – and then act on that data. And embracing mobile’s differences? The understanding that mobile is not email or web banner advertising for a smaller screen. This is increasingly obvious to marketers, many of whom have recognised they can’t apply the same old web metrics to mobile and get the same results. The channels differ, the experience is different and so is the engagement.
So forget about 2013 being the year of mobile. We’re already there. Instead, think of 2013 as the year of mobile measurement. While I don’t have a crystal ball, my money is on mobile analytics and measurement making great strides, establishing themselves as an indispensable component of any mobile engagement campaign. And to that end, here are five of my predictions on what the mobile messaging and measurement landscape will look like in the year ahead:
#1 – SMS will remain highly relevant
Anyone who’s received a text reading 786-454-5736 WE BUY JUNK CARS CASH $300/400 COMPRAMOS CARROS might disagree, but SMS will live on despite newer and arguably more visually-engaging formats precisely because of its simplicity and directness. Read our message. Text 1 to opt-in, text 2 to opt-out. Simple. Look for SMS to remain highly relevant in 2013 in both the developed and developing world – where feature phones outnumber smartphones. With messaging being very limited, marketers will learn to make every character count.
#2 – Marketers will demand the same sophistication form mobile as they do from other marketing channels
Current mobile analytics aren’t meeting the needs or challenges of marketers to engage or retain their mobile audiences and show ROI. But now that the conversation has moved fromwhether to go mobile to how, marketers will demand the same sophistication that has been applied to print, TV and desktop measurement to gauge campaigns’ effectiveness – and justify their growing mobile budgets.
#3 – Big data will drive engagement, retention and revenue
The focus on ‘big’ data will shift to smart data. Mobile marketers will start paying more attention to metrics that go beyond data gathering to the analysis of deep granular information – eg. location, coupon clicks, organic vs. targeted re-engagement – that provides customer context and makes for successful targeting of individuals. The result makes for smarter, more engaged customers, driving both retention (far less costly than acquiring new customers) and sales.
#4 – Marketers will fine tune their mobile messaging
A/B split testing for mobile campaigns will boom, and become a regular part of app development and management. New startups offering analytics services that go far beyond download counts and open rates to deliver better engagement will come on the scene. Through A/B split testing and more precise targeting, marketers will be more effective, fine tuning their marketing messages to perfection. Bombarding customers and users with poorly timed or irrelevant mobile messages will become so 2012.
#5 – Mobile metrics will reach beyond downloads, swipes and taps
Not only will marketers be doing more A/B testing, they’ll be using gathered data for message retargeting to unresponsive customers and users, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to engage, retain and maximise the value of their audiences. There will be significant investment in metrics such as action analytics – campaigns tied to actions and ROI – that go beyond simply tracking who downloaded what, when, and how many times. And while there might not be an ironclad set of industry-wide measurement standards by the end of 2013, mobile metrics will make huge strides in opening up a world of constant testing, feedback and improvement for marketers and consumers alike.
Sometimes predictions don’t come to pass and other times, like a bad algorithm, they overlook something profound that only seems so in retrospect. So here are a few final words as to what lies ahead in 2013: Apps will advance, the native versus non-native app debate will continue, SMS will resist smartphone domination and yes, SMS spam trying to sell junk cars will continue too. The maturing mobile outlook combined with the advancement of action analytics and metrics necessary to cater to that rising maturity is where the action will be. With heightened focus on engagement, retention and sales, there will be more thoughtful, intelligent and targeted campaigns delivering higher returns and a better overall mobile experience.