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Reaching the fragmented mobile audience

The mobile market is growing by leaps and bounds and device manufacturers are pushing out new smartphones and tablets to try and meet the needs of the consumers. Although variety is a good thing, different devices, platforms and screen sizes are causing fragmentation in the emerging space.

With the proliferation of new devices, the mobile space is becoming more fragmented. Marketers must overcome these hurdles to deliver a seamless experience for consumers.

?As phones and tablets are inherently personal devices, individuals will use their phones and tablets for different reasons and thus have different devices that meet their needs,? said Michael Burke, co-founder/president of adtivity by appssavvy.

?It is becoming increasingly important for marketers to understand their consumer, what they are doing and why they are doing it,? he said. ?Do they want to reach people as they are searching for a local store, playing a game, reading content or listening to music? And, why do they want to reach people as they are doing these activities? Does it align to their message?

?From there the type of device they are in is really in the execution and it's important to have a partner to help you execute across all platforms and devices ? mobile, tablets and even the Web.?

Overcoming hurdles
According to Mr. Burke, it is important for marketers to not get hung up about the fragmented mobile space. 

Marketers should recognize that their consumers or potential consumers are on mobile and they need to connect with them.

From there, it is important for companies to think about how they are going to best engage their consumer.

?There are opportunities for a marketer to make that happen millions a times a day as people continue to leverage their phones and tablets to communicate, share, create and consume,? Mr. Burke said.

?In order to do this you have to think of the person first, the phone or tablet second,? he said.

Mobile consensus
While there are more devices coming into the market every day, there appears to be some consensus around platforms.

Currently, the top two platforms are iOS and Android, followed by Windows 8, which is quickly gaining momentum.

?Even as more screen sizes change, the platform providers seem to be trying to keep it simple,? said Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research.

?I spoke to one developer who told me that all he had to do to update his iPhone app for the iPad mini was change the display size of his screen ? fixing one line of code,? she said. ?That said, the proliferation seems to be coming more from the multitude of ways that consumers can use these devices, and that's going to be more challenging to manage.

?Tablets get used differently than phones. What do these intermediate devices like the iPad mini mean for use cases??

Ms. Baird suggests marketers pay attention and stay on top of how things are changing.

For the most part, however, the proof will show up in the analytics.

Many retailers saw dramatic growth in tablet browsing within two months of the iPad release and had to significantly revise their strategy to accommodate the shift.

?I don't think the need to monitor and respond to those kinds of changes is ever going to go away,? Ms. Baird said. ?It's better to start small.

?We're hearing that retailers feel it's better to do something really well on one device first, then figure out how to take it to multiple form-factors, rather than trying to be all things to all devices right away,? she said. ?Go to where you have the most audience, deliver a mind-blowing experience and then expand from there.

?I'll be curious to see what role the tablet plays in holiday deal-finding and shopping and whether we see wish lists cross channels, phone, store, online ? whether PC based or tablet. Certainly everyone will be watching adoption to see whether the holidays mean a new injection of smart devices into consumer hands.?

Broad reach
Although there are a number of different devices in the space and fragmentation is an ongoing dilemma, it is also very important for marketers to first understand consumer needs and how users interact with the brand via their smartphones.

?While there is a broader range of devices on the market now than in years past, there isn't so much a fragmentation of the mobile space as a reinforcement of the need to understand customers' contextual interactions with the brand,? said Patrick Stack, manager of digital strategy at Acquity Group, Chicago.

?The major fragmentation among these new devices is in screen size, but this is strictly a presentation-layer issue in comparison to the strategic business changes brought on by customer mobility itself,? he said.

?This idea of customer mobility spanning a broader variety of contexts has been in play for several years now, so if marketers aren't already addressing that fact and are only now realizing the disruptive nature of customer mobility, they're in deeper trouble.?

Marketers must adopt strategies for mobility that recognize customers are accessing the brand from a variety of devices and contexts.

Successful marketers must keep their focus on the core brand interactions and ensure that they have an underlying system that?s flexible enough to accommodate these interactions and translate them across the assorted interfaces and channels that arise, per Mr. Stack.

Furthermore, it is important for marketers to be flexible and effectively prepared as more mobile devices, tablets, tablet hybrids and everything in between enter the market.

?Digital flexibility is, and long has been, a crucial quality that successful companies possess,? Mr. Stack said. ?Focus on the most common customer mobile experiences first.

?In almost all cases, this will be a mobile site and marketers should ensure they have an effective mobile-friendly Web site before they worry about anything else, including apps,? he said. ?While it's not always necessary to build a native mobile app, it is necessary to have a mobile-friendly site.

?Responsive design is one way for marketers to overcome screen-size fragmentation, but it?s important to note that responsive design is a possibility, not a cure-all. Marketers must think about the number and type of contexts through which customers access their brand before they decide whether or not to adopt responsive design.?

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York