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3 pressing issues facing retailers and marketers using mobile

There is no doubt that mobile is growing, but the industry faces several pressing questions if it wants to continue moving along the same path.   

Mobile applications and the mobile Web have grown quickly in the past couple of years to the point where well-known national brands are regular players in the space. However, mobile is still fragmented and marketers need to be thinking two or three steps ahead if they want to meet consumers’ needs easily and efficiently.

“Mobile advertising – whether through mobile bar codes, on the mobile Internet or via applications – is now no longer a trial medium for marketers,” said Laura Marriott, chief executive officer at NeoMedia Technologies, Atlanta, GA. “Mobile has the ability to breathe new life into traditional and digital campaigns, enabling engagement with the consumer on impulse.”

But because mobile is such a personal communications channel, there are specific issues unique to mobile marketers must address while still keeping their eye on the overall marketing strategy, per Ms. Marriott.

Here is what industry experts have to say about the top issues facing mobile marketers. 

How to best engage customers using tailored communications
While there is a lot of talk about location-based targeting via, marketers should be careful to match consumer need and behavior with their campaign strategy, considering all possible ways to tailor communications to provide value.

“Access to relevant content, discount coupons, or exclusive information can help grab consumer attention and encourage interaction,” Ms. Marriott said.

“This tried-and-true marketing strategy is a great way to increase a user base and will promote user participation in the campaign, so be sure that any communication is tailored to the target consumer using the data available to you and offers value in a form suitable for both brand and campaign,” she said.

Right now, marketers are looking for ways to engage in cross-channel targeting across every mobile channel they are in. This is not easy because mobile is not a cookie-based environment and there is no standardization across mobile ad units.

However, the payoff could be significant.

“This year we’ve seen a lot of interest in using the same targeting metrics from online in mobile,” said Zaw Thet, CEO of 4Info, San Mateo, CA.

“As this happens, there will be an exponential growth in mobile as marketers start to move their online budgets into mobile”, he said.

Geotargeting, in particular, deserves attention.

With all the attention being paid to mobile’s consumer privacy issues in Washington and by consumer advocates, many are watching to see what the impact will be on the use of location in mobile advertising.

A big focus for mobile marketers is on using mobile to send consumers a targeted mobile offer when their phone shows they are in close proximity to an advertiser.

“That is the Holy Grail of what location is capable of but, the question is will consumers be comfortable with that and do retailers need that level of granularity,” said Brett Leary, vice president and director of the mobile practice at Digitas, Boston.

“There is a big difference in the implications for privacy between targeting at the ZIP code level versus targeting three feet away and that needs to get sorted out,” he said.

Looking further ahead, however, marketers may want to consider whether it makes more sense to have apps across multiple devices or a single mobile Web presence.

As the number of platforms has grown, marketers are having to update apps and push this out to all these different platforms, which can be time consuming and expensive.

“Marketers want to want to be able to reach as wide a targeted audience as possible,” said Neil Strother, practice director of mobile marketing strategies and mobile services at ABI Research, Kirkland, WA. “The mobile Web is that standardized platform.”

What role should mobile play in a brand’s overall marketing strategy?
Marketers need to plan ahead and integrate mobile into the marketing mix if they want to get the most out of it.

“This will help insure that interactivity is a key element of the campaign itself and not simply added as an afterthought,” NeoMedia’s Ms. Marriott said. “Continued consumer engagement should be a key benchmark in determining the overall success of your campaign, so planning for it early on will only serve to bolster consumer satisfaction with your campaign.”

This means marketers should align their mobile efforts with the customer journey and not have a separate strategy for mobile.

“If you treat mobile in a siloed way, you are not able to find those insights that enable us to create greater relevancy with apps and mobile ads,” Digitas’ Mr. Leary said.

Metrics to use to measure the success of a mobile campaign
This needs to address the fragmentation that currently exists in mobile advertising.

“There is a lot of fragmentation with iAd, other display ad formats and newer emerging formats such as rich media,” Mr. Leary said. “All of these need to be smoothed into an efficient system in order  for marketers to spend more in mobile.”

How the industry standardizes measurement is something a lot of players in the industry have their eyes on.

“Because mobile has the ability to connect the digital and physical worlds, the question can we find the way to close the loop between these two worlds when it comes to marketing,” Mr. Leary said.

This represents an important opportunity to differentiate mobile because if the industry can figure out a way to tie back an in-store purchase to a mobile marketing message the purchaser received. Companies such as Nielsen and 4Info and trying to make this happen.

Being able to provide a clear picture of mobile’s return on investment could have big ramifications.

“It is going to encourage repeat action, spread overall usage of the medium and investment in it by advertisers,” Mr. Leary said.

First of all, however, the industry needs to address the fragmentation in mobile ad units.

“Unlike online, there is not really an easy way to get cross-channel accountability in mobile,” 4Info’s Mr. Thet said.

What needs to happen is for marketers to be able to buy mobile ad units from one source and to easily view metrics in one report for all of their mobile activity, per Mr. Thet.

“We are starting to see more of this with more ad networks starting to support third-party tracking,” Mr. Thet said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode, Mobile Commerce Daily