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How to embrace mobile Web for maximum reach and sales

As smartphone adoption increases steadily and HTML5 expands the possibilities of the mobile Web, savvy marketers are embracing the mobile Internet for maximum brand reach and to drive sales in more ways than one.

For most brands and retailers, launching a mobile-optimized Web site featuring device detection should be step No. 1, because it is compatible with most phones. Search via the mobile Web is becoming more commonplace, and consumers searching for a particular brand using their handsets can be automatically redirected to the mobile-optimized version.

?Growing trends I?m seeing include continued increase in the number of users accessing the Internet via their mobile device as the dominant method of access, and continued growth in smartphone adoption, although the overall mobile handset units are growing as well,? said Steve Timpson, president of Siteminis Inc., Atlanta.

?Additionally there is strong growth in the use of social sites such as Facebook and Twitter year-over-year, the adoption of location-based interactions on mobile and the use of bar code scanner technology,? he said.

Changes in usage behavior are affecting the way that consumers interact with ads on the mobile Web, and provides increased opportunities for brand advertisers

Ad placement, delivery and pull-through to real calls-to-action are improving, per Siteminis.

Mr. Timpson said that brands are placing more effort on the quality and content of mobile advertising to take advantage of increased mobile Web traffic.

?SMS is still a strong way to get customers? attention, but as with anything in the mobile space, it is mission-critical to have solid content and offer-driven mobile Web sites that can convert that customer,? Mr. Timpson said.

?Social sites are gaining in popularity as an advertising opportunity, but clearly that takes significant oversight by the brand to really bear fruit?but it will bear fruit,? he said.

?Location-based marketing is also growing but is still being flushed out as far as a tool used commonly for most brand marketing efforts.?

However, Mr. Timpson believes that many advertisers are not currently embracing the mobile Web to the fullest.

??Embracing? may be a bit aggressive,? Mr. Timpson said. ?Brands that have traditionally placed a high value on direct marketing efforts have done a superior job in working mobile ads into their everyday marketing approach?coupons, loyalty programs, video and QR codes are growing.?

While there are some early-adopters among brands that have gone all in, so to speak, other brands are still sitting on the fence or dipping their toe in the water.

Many companies are struggling with how to manage mobile as an integrated marketing tool. 

?Overall, there is strong growth in mobile advertising year-over-year, and the customer experience is getting better, but there is still a lot of runway for improvement,? Mr. Timpson said. ?The mobile Web still seems to be the most effective at gaining customer reach and frequency.?

Mobile Web identity
It is important for brands to build an identity on the mobile Web, and above all that means having a site that loads quickly and looks good on multiple devices and operating systems.

The mobile Internet opens up a host of opportunities for marketers, from standard display banners and branding to rich media and click-to-video.

In addition, various targeting methods based on factors such as location, past behavior, time of day and demographics can help to make mobile ads actionable.

A simple, clear call-to-action is paramount. Brands must get their message across quickly and grab consumers? attention right away. The action they want to encourage should be only a tap or two away.

Mobclix is a mobile ad exchange and analytics platform that started focusing on applications exclusively and recently branched off into the mobile Web and tablets space.

?Brands and premium publishers often get more traffic on their mobile Web pages than their downloadable apps,? said Krishna Subramanian, cofounder of Mobclix, San Francisco. ?They might only have one resource or development team and have to release a platform that is accessible from any type of device and not subject to approval from an App Store.?

Android and Windows Phone 7 have so many different devices, and then there is Apple?s iOS, Research In Motion?s BlackBerry and various other platforms to support.

A mobile Web site is accessible via all of those devices.

One thing that developers like about the mobile Web is the fact that many publishers already have a lot of traffic on their regular Web sites coming from mobile devices, so they create mobile-optimized versions to make sure the experience consumers have is a good one.

Developers can focus on creating an HTML5-based Web experience to support a range of mobile devices.

As technology continues to evolve, even rich media and video are possible on the mobile Web.

?We?re seeing the same sorts of interactions with ads across the mobile Web and within apps, as HTML5 can power rich media content within an app and on the mobile Web,? Mr. Subramanian said. ?A lot of advertisers want full-screen video within apps and across the mobile Web.

?Brands want particular types of users?if they want a business traveler, they don?t care what carrier they are on, or if they are on the mobile Web or using apps,? he said. ?The mobile Web, along with apps for smartphones and tablets allows them to expand their reach.?

One thing needed to grow the mobile Web is carrier network infrastructure, per Mobclix.

?Native apps have richer content, but now when you go to the mobile Web space, you are downloading everything on the go, so you need the infrastructure from carriers to support that increase mobile Web usage so you don?t have drops,? Mr. Subramanian said.

Mobile Web to larger digital strategy
Microsoft Advertising reports seeing a noticeable increase in the adoption of all smart devices and more refined measurements of how consumers are using those devices.

Unlike the current market notion of segmenting brands? ad spend into either in-application or mobile browser-based ads, Microsoft just wrapped up a study that shows no statistical difference in the amount of data consumption between applications and the mobile Web.

In fact, in all but the heaviest app users, consumers are turning to the mobile browser more often to access the information they are looking to attain, per Microsoft.

?The approach of focusing on the audience and not the device is still key for most advertising strategies,? said Shane Robbins, marketing manager of global trade marketing for mobile, local and commerce at Microsoft Advertising, Redmond, WA. ?As mobile ads are becoming more tailored and more targeted to consumers, advertisers are embracing the mobile Web as part of their larger digital strategy.

?On one of our recent campaigns with GMC Terrain, the client built out an online, mobile Web and in-app landing destination and saw their purchase intent jump to 44 percent of those exposed across multiple screens,? he said.

?Mobile is a conduit for driving more focused engagement with consumers and, in turn, consumers are responding with greater intent.?

Final Take
Adam Shapiro