What do mobile users really want from brands?
Hype, myth and hyperbole live alongside reality in the mobile sphere, making it difficult for marketers to know where to turn. One of my favorites is the belief that mobile payments will be universally adopted ASAP. Some people suggest cash will be gone by Tuesday, which, of course, is nonsense. Just look at history — not only have mobile users been slow to use their devices for banking, but other customers still prefer to interact with tellers. Though you may think they’re in the minority, banks still offer in-person options because the demand is significant.
Do mobile owners actually want anything to do with brands and businesses while their heads are buried in their devices? Judging by the large increase in mobile users downloading ad-blocking software lately, you might discern that the answer is no. However, when you consider the entire population of mobile users, you’ll find your instinct is wrong — there’s still value in mobile marketing, and here’s the proof:
Mobile produces impressive revenue
Facebook’s total revenue in Q1 of 2016 grew to $5.38 billion from $3.54 billion in Q4 2015, with ad revenue increasing 57 percent to $5.2 billion. Mobile ad revenue accounted for about 82 percent of total ad revenue, compared with about 73 percent a year earlier. Brands were spending more because the advertising was working.
Then came news that mobile advertising drives $26.52 in incremental sales per thousand impressions for consumer packaged goods brands, topping digital video, TV and cross-media, according to a new report from Nielsen Catalina Solutions. The authors said that with mobile having the lowest frequency across all media, marketers could buy more and still expect strong returns.
Want additional proof? Just under 60 percent of mobile users said they would have a more positive opinion about a retailer if they were provided with coupons and offers that could be saved on their smartphone, per the 2016 Mobile Consumer Report released by Vibes.
And then there’s this one — more than half of millennials would use their phones to leverage restaurant or bar loyalty programs, according to QSR Magazine.
Finally, according to comScore, listeners don’t mind hearing ads during podcasts — and they actually act on them. In a study of US respondents ages 18 to 49, two-thirds of listeners have acted on ads they heard in a podcast either by researching a product or service or by actually purchasing something they heard about in an episode. Of course, many of those listens happen through a mobile device.
The rise of ad blocking
Lest you think I’m full of hype, let’s examine the latest ad-blocking statistics and their ramifications.
Ad blocking in the US is expected to grow by double digits this year and next, according to eMarketer. In 2016, 69.8 million people in the US will use some sort of ad blocker, representing an increase of 34.4 percent since 2015. The following year, that number will increase another 24 percent, topping out at 86.6 million people.
Currently, ad blocking is more common on desktops and laptops than on smartphones. However, the number of people using ad blockers on their smartphones will rise 62.3 percent this year, and the number of PC-based ad-blocking users will increase 30.1 percent, according to the source.
Don’t give up hope
So what gives? In “The Art of Mobile Persuasion,” I dive into the personal relationship consumers have with their phones and dissect whether there’s a place for advertising and marketing or whether three is a crowd. Through reviewing thousands of mobile campaigns and interviews with more than a dozen of the world’s leading mobile marketers, the only conclusion to draw was that many mobile users — but not all — are willing and even eager to engage with businesses when they receive value in exchange.
The large and growing number of people blocking ads is due to mobile users being bothered by bad experiences, being fed up with communications from brands that are neither relevant nor contextual, and choosing to keep their relatively small screens uncluttered.
“Crappy ad experiences are behind the uptick in ad-blocking tools, and Google, along with the advertising and publishing industries, is obliged to come up with a fix,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of Ads and Commerce.
However, the mistake comes when marketers believe the door is closed. By providing better and more personal interactions, brands and businesses can block not just the stream of smartphone owners downloading software, but the hype that does a disservice to a channel that has proven its worth time and again.