75% of internet use will be mobile in 2017, but âgoing mobileâ means more blind spots than hot-spots for marketers | DMA

Filter By

Show All

Connect to


75% of internet use will be mobile in 2017, but âgoing mobileâ means more blind spots than hot-spots for marketers


There's no doubt about it: our customers - and ourselves - are going more mobile: according to Zenith’s recent Mobile Advertising Forecasts, the mobile proportion of internet has increased from 40% in 2012, to 68% in 2016 - and predicted to leap again in 2017 to 79%.

Each of us carries three mobile devices with us on average, selected from an ever growing list of options; from smartphones and tablets to e-books and smart-watches. And we use them. Commerce is increasingly aligned to a mobile world, and marketers are rightly eager to understand and influence the role of the mobile in reaching customers.

Unfortunately, the martech industry is often too keen to promote this vision of a mobile world, and some of its experts seem obsessed with endorsing mobile-first or even mobile-only strategies. This is premature, simplistic, and unhelpful.

Savvy marketers need to see through the hype, use tools which reflect the richness and complexity of our customers' behaviour, and be prepared to do business in all areas of a wide, diverse and rapidly-changing landscape, seeing the hot-spots which represent real-value.

Problem 1 – The Incomplete Picture

The simple fact is that although customers are growing more mobile, they still often prefer to make online purchases at home, using laptop or desktop computers. The reasons for this are unclear - though we can speculate about force of habit, freedom from distraction, and the physical security offered by the home environment. This paradox is even more pronounced where high-value purchases are involved. At Relay42, we have highlighted a clear pattern in the travel and finance industries: consumers increasingly tend to do their search and comparison using mobile devices, but still prefer to use a PC to book or ‘transact’. According to Zenith’s study, ‘tablets are more of a luxury item and have not been spread nearly as widely’.

The challenge for the marketer is clear: we need to discover and understand these customer journeys much more clearly, rather than placing too much trust in the mobile-hype. We can declare 'the desktop is dead' all we want, and design exciting alternative pathways, but we cannot realistically dictate the behaviours of consumers. We need to follow before we can lead.

The challenge for the marketer, therefore, is not only clear - it is also quite simple: there is a need to collect brand information on customers' interactions across the complete range of touch-points, regardless of device, platform, or location. Clear, simple in theory - seemingly impossible in practice.

Problem 2 - The Silos

In today's complex environment, marketers often struggle to understand the end-to-end journey of their digital customers - this is a problem that the mobile-hype frequently glosses over. The problem is compounded by the emergence of digital giants like Facebook and Google - who offer alternative steps and new platforms for marketers to decipher. Some marketers may adopt a strategy of surrender: investing disproportionately in these new platforms, often at the expense of their own channels. This is a flawed strategy in the longer term. These digital giants inevitably accrue a stronghold of invaluable customer data which can only be accessed within their own platforms, via their own channels, on their own terms. The marketer, in other words, loses control of their own data.

The challenge here for the marketer is a complex one. It isn't enough to respond piecemeal to new channels or platforms as they emerge - that is a silo-based strategy which is destined to fail. To be successful, we must piece together the fragments, look at the bigger picture in our data, and seek real, holistic customer understanding. In practice, this means considering each and every silo of customer information; second party data collectors such as metasearch, ad-servers and DSPs; even Pinterest and Snapchat. This challenge, of course, underpins one of the recurring fears in digital marketing: the fear of being unable to integrate the data from different systems. This fear is nothing new - what is new is the range of different customer-facing and internal data-capture systems involved - as well as the layer of complexity ‘mobile’ is considered to add.

Marketer, know thyself

As marketers, we always seek to understand our customers' behaviour, but perhaps we should also seek to understand ourselves a little better too. We are a positive and decisive bunch, that's for sure. We seek clarity, certainty and predictability; we have a desperation for black and white in a world of grey ambiguity. Maybe that is why we are sometimes blinded by false absolutes and forget that consumer behaviour - human behaviour - is typically unpredictable, changeable and often irrational.

Simple answers rarely if ever exist in marketing. Mobile is clearly a powerful tool, but it shouldn't be - in fact it can't be - considered in isolation. Our present obsession with mobile is mirrored by our inclination to over-invest our budgets, our targets and our trust in third-party digital giants. These new channels and platforms do not, in themselves and on their own, represent the future; they are just new pieces in an existing, already complex, jigsaw.

The key to marketing success lies not in placing blind faith in new channels; and certainly not in ignoring or discounting the opportunities they offer; the key to success lies in getting the best of both worlds. We need to both reap the benefits of new technologies and devices, and also to keep control of our customer data - this will allow us to understand clearly how these new technologies are deployed and interact.

We need to remember that new devices, new channels, and new technologies do not in themselves give our customers what they want. They are just tools, and we need to learn how to use them.

The Solution – The Customer’s Context

The reality of marketing success in the digital age is that a holistic, flexible marketing technology solution is a necessity. This needs to reflect the entire spectrum of consumer behaviour, both at home and on the move, from the mobile app at the airport to Facebook by the fireside at home.

This solution needs to consider all devices, but to be device-independent. The smartphone may be today's hot technology, but tomorrow it will be something different: the smart car, the thermostat nest, the hyper-personalised in flight entertainment. By using a marketing hub with the flexibility to support multiple consumer-facing systems and screens, marketers no longer need to work in absolutes, and can activate and optimise data which defies the widely proclaimed ‘death’ or ‘birth’ of any specific machine or human inclination.

The only constants in this ever-changing world, follow a conveyor-belt of technological change and personal preference. The only constant and the only things we care about nurturing, are the customers themselves - and we need the flexibility to follow.

Hear more from the DMA

Please login to comment.