Mobile Display: The Key Ingredients to Success

Mobile-first digital MarketingI truly love what’s new and emerging in digital marketing. I want to learn about it, evangelize it and get tests out in the market right away.

That said, my role as an advisor to brands for the past 12 years has required me to vet new digital prospects, separating the opportunity from the hype.  We need to know where to invest:  no matter how cool and interesting something sounds or seems, I have to consider how viable it might really be.

I like to think I have had more hits than misses when it comes to recognizing the hype.  An example here is the QR Code, which I passed on from the gitgo.  I never thought people would take the time to scan them (if they even knew how to which in my non-scientific research of asking lay people how to do it, nobody ever actually knew).  I doubted they would then watch a video about the product or service if there was one.  I saw QR codes on subways, airplanes (pre wifi), taxis, and sliding glass doors at Duane Reade – in places and on things that were physically impossible to scan.

Mobile, though, is definitely not hype.  Up to half of some retailers’ traffic originates from mobile, and per eMarketer, 19% of US eCommerce sales now come through it, too.  For many retailers, conversion rates on smartphones still lag considerably compared to that of desktop or tablets, so there is still much room for improvement here.  Despite the fact that mobile sales (ie: those specifically from smartphones) under index compared to the level of traffic they generate, it is hard not to be lured in to some of the really interesting mobile display media offerings that exist right now.

The most compelling aspect of mobile advertising is location targeting.  Other online media channels offer it, too, but the ability to ping someone when they are walking by a store location is an awesome concept.  It is possible to layer on behavioral data, too, to help pinpoint the more likely prospects, but the location-based targeting, such as exact geo and weather, for example, is what makes mobile display unique.

Despite the possibilities of how location-based targeting can be used for marketing and the fact that the accuracy is truly excellent, unfortunately, less than 10% of cell phone users allow apps to access the phone’s GPS, so the population you can market to in this awesome way is tiny.  Note that there is a race to perfect other means of location-based targeting such as city or zip code, look alike models and such, but that is just too broad a range for what most retailers are looking to achieve which is the pinging of someone when they are in the vicinity of a store.  Marketers need to keep this in mind and choose their mobile vendor very carefully, understanding what criteria the vendor is using for their location targeting.

If the location targeting is satisfactory based on the factors above, it is definitely worth testing mobile display, but a few other important elements should be present, too.

Contextual Messaging:   The fact that someone is walking by a store location and they happen to have GPS enabled on some of their phone apps doesn’t make them a prospect for a brand or retailer.  Providing some level of context for the ad is necessary to encourage intent.  If there is a big local event happening, the ad might speak to that.  An ad addressing football on Sundays in season can also provide context provided there is some link to football and the merchandise in the store (food, jerseys, party supplies, etc).  An ad could be pushed when the weather turns bad, and that, too, should be referenced in the ad’s message.   Talking to the event and the product is a winning combination, contextually.

Offer:  Coupons or Gifts with Purchase are pretty much essential if a marketer wants to drive a prospect into a store location after they have been served a mobile display ad.  A simple A/B split with and without a promotional offer will likely prove this out.

Landing page:  The mobile ad unit needs to click through to a mobile-friendly site and, preferably, landing page that is relevant to the mobile ad.  The landing page will help drive more foot traffic and sales if it supports the coupon or GWP mentioned above.

While there is no cookie cutter formula that will work across brands or retailers akin to “Official Site” copy in paid search, with mobile display there are enough known fundamentals at this point that should definitely affect some level of success if incorporated into a campaign.  Location-based targeting (of the accurate type) + Contextual messaging + Offer + Mobile optimized site is a good start toward a winning mobile display formula.

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