Too few marketers are aligning their mobile strategies to how customers are actually using smartphones today, with the failure to take corrective action likely to have significant repercussions within two to three years, according to a new report from Forrester.
Only a small majority of marketers - 59 percent - know their customers usage and attitudes toward mobile phones, according to the report, The State Of Mobile Technology For Marketers, 2014. The failure to close the gap between how customers are using mobile and how marketers are using it will have real ramifications for marketers within two to three years by increasing opportunity costs, make brands irrelevant, leaving companies unprepared to evolve their business model, forcing them to stick with outmoded computing form factors and eating up budget.
Mobile is the catalyst for broader technology and marketing changes, said Thomas Husson, Paris-based vice president and principal analyst of the marketing and strategy client group at Forrester as well as author of the report.
Marketers who are not ready to move away from a traditional marketing approach to develop new experiences for the most complex platform today will be lost in a world where computing will be disconnected from screens and where connected objects and wearables create new opportunities.
Nascent programs The report underscores the ongoing challenges marketers face as they try to embrace mobile, with 42 percent of those surveyed saying they have had a mobile strategy for less a year or were in the early stages of building one.
At the same time, only 35 percent of marketers report that they have the necessary budget they need for their mobile initiatives. However, this is not surprising given that only 46 percent use key performance indicators to measure the success of mobile.
Additionally, only 38 percent of marketers have implemented mobile analytics, and typically only for the mobile Web.
More advanced analytics tools are necessary to understand customers actions so the experience can be optimized.
The wrong focus
When marketers do embark on a mobile strategy, they are often focusing on the wrong ones.
For example, there is a heavy focus on building native mobile apps. However, few branded apps are used on a regular basis or deliver strong-enough benefits to warrant repeat use.
Additionally, marketers are spending money on developing apps for Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices despite their small installed bases, which can be a costly endeavor without much payoff.
Forrester also found that marketers are too focused on trendy mobile technologies. For example, 42 percent of marketers use or plan to use QR or 2D bar codes even though use is still niche in most countries except Japan.
Marketers use of mobile coupons and augmented reality is also not in line with consumer use today.
Another area where marketers are missing the mark is with responsive Web design, which is too often implemented as a quick fix to the proliferation of screen sizes. As a result, marketers are not giving enough thought to tailoring experiences for different devices.
The mobile technologies consumers are embracing include SMS, which 74 percent of U.S. online adults who use a mobile phone sending or receiving SMS messages at least weekly.
Additionally, 59 percent use their devices to check sports, weather or news at least weekly, 52 percent access social networks at least weekly and 21 percent research products.
Another popular area for consumers is consuming photo and video content, with 21 percent uploading photos and videos to the Internet via their mobile phones at least weekly.
Transactional services and activities are also gaining.
Emerging areas include using mobile to access a customer loyalty program.
Different uses for mobile
One important takeaway from the report is that there is no such thing as an average mobile user anymore. As mobile adoption has grown and use has become more sophisticated, use is increasingly differing by demographic, country, type of device owned and other factors.
This means that marketers need to dig into specific customer behaviors before rolling out any mobile marketing tactics.
For example, smartphone owners have varying habits. IPhone users in Europe are more likely to use mobile services regularly, such as financial and transactional activities.
Additionally, U.S. iPhone users have more advanced mobile behaviors than do Android users.
There are also differences by demographic segment, with U.S. Gen Z mobile users more likely to use mobile search engines daily than are Gen X users. Among U.S. tablet users over 70 percent years old, up to 49 percent use apps at least weekly on a tablet.
Moving from project to project, trial to trial, and technology to technology without a five-year mobile plan can only lead to increasing costs and lost money, Mr. Husson said. You can no longer simply trial without significantly adapting your metrics and back-end infrastructure.
Final Take Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
News Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at email@example.com.