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Is 2013 the year of mobile utility?

By Gary Elphick

We have heard it time and time again. Is <insert year> the year of the mobile?

What was everyone expecting when we reach the ?year of mobile?? I would argue that 2012 was the year of mobile, in the same way that 2011 was, and 2013 will be. It is just a transition in how brands use and adopt.

Mobile commerce
Last year was the first time many traditional businesses recognized mobile as a key medium and began investigating in differing ways.

For example, we saw a flurry of ecommerce sites being re-created as mobile commerce sites. Brands recognized that whilst yes, only 20 percent of their traffic was coming from mobile, the proportion of visits leading to sales and the value of those sales were substantially more than those from a desktop. Adobe?s Digital Marketing Insights report states a 12 percent higher spend by smartphone.

In Australia we have seen the likes of ASOS launch their well-engineered mobile site optimized for direct review purchase in the 5minute window, and the likes of Event Cinemas redesigning and promoting their site to capitalize on the cost savings from reducing counter staff.

This was their year of mobile commerce.

Mobile advertising
What is more not only did we see brands recognize mobile as a key source of revenue for getting dollars in the door.

Last year saw brands outlaying dollars on mobile to get the attention of their customers through advertising placements. As an underutilized platform, placements continue to be more economical than Web-based placements, with less expensive CPMs and significantly higher click-through rates at 0.05 percent versus 0.15.

Various brands took to this in different ways. We saw the likes of Myer, an Australian clothing retailer, and Adrenaline, an extreme sports reseller, push out ads in standard format to gain incremental reach as part of an overall campaign.

We also saw the likes of Coke-Cola?s Fanta launch ?Fun zone,? a mobile-centric gaming campaign focused on earning real world points from static out-of-home displays.

This was their year of mobile advertising.

Branded mobile utility
However, what we are starting to see, and need to see more of, is branded mobile utility.

We are going through the same phases that the Web initially went through ? shout at them before taking a step back and talking.

Brands need to catch up with how their target audiences are behaving and what they spend their time doing, then they can start exploring how to make their lives and experiences richer.

KPMG describe branded utility as dramatically increasing customer retention across mobile, more so that desktop.

Branded utility is nothing new, although the evident gap on mobile offers a great opportunity.

To take advantage, marketers need to move from being brand-focused to become experienced- focused on mobile, the same way they have online and experiential. The branding will look after itself.

For good examples we can look at the explosion of the Nike+ application. It enhances the traditional exercising experience and therefore increases the love for the brand and, ultimately, sales.

Locally, mobile network Telstra built an app that put music to the Sydney NYE fireworks, as well as solving the problem of the midnight text blackout ? for free messages ? enhancing our experience of the event as opposed to distracting from it with overt branding.

Finally, Perisher, a local ski resort ? yes, we have snow in Australia ? launched its My ride app that tracks your mountain use, speed and distance, and provides the evidence to back up your bragging.

These are the brands who are leading mobile in Australia. Therefore I would be asking:

Is 2013 your year of mobile utility?

If you are considering this, your brand must follow these steps:

1. What are your current users doing in the real world?
2. How can you alleviate pain points or enhance the already great?
3. How can mobile ? being a real-time, 24/7, hyper-local and personalized medium ? enable that?

Gary Elphick is cofounder of Swipe, a cloud-based NFC marketing agency in Sydney, Australia. Reach him at .