In July 2016, the mobile world was opened up to tantalizing new possibilities with the release of Pokémon GO, an augmented reality (AR) game from Niantic that overlaid Pokémon (various creatures with special features and clever names) in users’ real-life settings. Engage with a Pokémon, and, suddenly, there the creature is—in your living room, your backyard, or your local retail store. It wasn’t long before marketers began eyeing the possibilities for leveraging the huge popularity of this game. By August, the game had already generated 100 million downloads and was earning $10 million a day, according to App Annie.
It wasn’t long before retailers and other businesses began considering how they might take advantage of the popularity of this game—or how they might incorporate AR and virtual reality (VR) into their mobile marketing efforts. Add to the year’s major events some announcements from Google and Facebook, and the path has been paved for a growing focus on mobile, which, like the internet several years ago, is becoming a must do for marketers.
The Year in Review
Melih Oztalay is CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing in Birmingham, Mich., and a 22-year veteran of web marketing. He points to some major shifts by the big players in digital marketing—Google, Facebook, and Apple—that took hold in 2016 and are likely to remain a driving force into 2017. In fact, he says, “In 2016, we have seen the largest implemented change in support of mobile content by Google, Facebook, and Apple.” They have, he says, “effectively implemented what I call HTML lite, a form of HTML to strip down all the unnecessary elements in order to speed up the download time of webpages to mobile devices”:
• In February 2016, Google officially announced Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) on its blog.
• In March 2016, Apple announced the Apple News platform for publishers.
• In April 2016, Facebook officially announced Facebook Instant Articles.
“All in all, while much of these elements were in testing mode in previous years and are really no surprise, they are official in 2016 and will be the driving force as we go into 2017,” says Oztalay.
The current—and future—state of mobile marketing, says Christopher S. Penn, VP of marketing technology with Shift Communications, “can be summarized as faster, faster, faster.” Penn says, “If mobile content isn’t fast, it’s not effective. Google has started giving priority to sites (and content) that use their AMP protocol. Facebook has announced that if ads on its network are slow, they will not be given preference.” Content marketers, says Penn, can’t afford to create slow content. The challenge though, he says, is that “not all content marketers are collaborating with marketing tech/IT to ensure infrastructure supports and aligns with these prescribed best practices.” That’s not a bad resolution to make as we move into 2017.
Let’s take a look at what else lies ahead for mobile marketers.
A Look Ahead
Mansi Laus Deo, editor of the literary magazine A Nosh of Life and a content strategy consultant based in New Delhi, says 2017 will be “the year when companies put even more attention and emphasis on their website/content load speeds and consumption of data while still maintaining a decent reading experience for consumers.”
The major challenge for digital marketers in 2017, says Laus Deo, will be “keeping their readers happy by adhering to these parameters.” With so many people connected via mobile devices, anyone with a website is, in essence, a mobile marketer—whether he or she realizes it. The stakes are high, she says. “I see a lot of websites either losing out on a lot of traffic or getting completely weeded out because of this.”
In addition, notes Mike Shaw, an internet marketing consultant with Tower Marketing, “While AMP is not a ranking factor now, Google is definitely starting to show more AMP pages in the search results for mobile users. As digital marketers, our content is critical to online success and, therefore, we need to apply AMP to our sites so our content has more visibility.”
Marketers must ensure that they are finely attuned to the results they’re seeing in web—and mobile—traffic in 2017. Analytics will continue to rule. In 2017, says Venkat Viswanathan, co-founder and chairman of LatentView, based in New Jersey, “we’ll see more companies layering analytics on their mobile content strategy. They will use analytics to not just customize content for a mobile device, but also [to discover] the stage of purchase a consumer is in.” Marketers, he says, will increasingly use analytics to offer mobile consumers coupons and other incentives to buy. These coupon and special offer options will be based on a number of factors, such as the consumer’s proximity to an aisle in a department store that sells a product similar to a recent purchase. “Experiments are currently underway to understand the influence of numerous other factors, including time of day, transit route, and crowdedness of subways on mobile content efficacy,” says Viswanathan. “We will see more companies and marketers experimenting with these in 2017.”
Anindya Ghose, professor of IT and marketing and the director of the Center for Business Analytics at NYU Stern, agrees. “If firms can do a better job in extracting consumer preferences and use that information effectively for targeting, they will be surprised to find how receptive consumers are when they receive such relevant ads and offers.” In the U.S. alone, he says, “mobile ad spends amounted to $25 billion last year.” Add the next top five countries—India, China, South Korea, Germany, and Brazil—and that number climbs to more than $100 billion, he says.
Viswanathan also points to the importance of mobile in marketing efforts. But he says, “Many marketers struggle with mobile content. Mobile advertising has one of the lowest conversions to purchase.” The impact of new and increasingly more sophisticated technology is going to have a significant effect on mobile, predicts Penn. “Moving forward, we’ll see an explosion in the mobile media experience—including augmented, mixed, and virtual reality—as companies compete for omnipresence.” It’s an exciting, but also daunting, time—especially for those who haven’t been able to effectively marry the skills and competencies of marketing, IT, and analytics pros toward better results through mobile.