Everyone is excited about mobile, but it sure is creating problems for both advertisers and publishers. First, the whopping trend. In December 2012, comScore reports, 37% of U.S. consumers’ “digital time” was spent on mobile devices vs. PCs or laptops. Mobile gadgets are now the source of 14% of all web traffic, and that number has been growing by 133% annually. Advertisers, businesses and publishers who don’t prepare for mobile visitors are rapidly falling out of sync with the market.
Advertisers are falling behind
If markets are efficient, ad dollars should be chasing this consumer trend — but advertisers seem to be blocked off from mobile success. Over at HBR, Sunil Gupta notes that mobile still only attracts 1% of advertiser spending despite accounting for 10% of consumers’ total daily media time, and suggests this number won’t come in line soon because traditional advertising on mobile is too interruptive for the tiny screens. Why are ads troublesome in mobile?
- Size: Banner ads, even if shrunk, take up a proportionally large share of the mobile screen, potentially annoying consumers.
- Data: Audience targeting on mobile has trailed the web for years. While on the web marketers can pinpoint audiences with specific demographics, past online behavior, or in-market for specific products, in mobile the carrier intermediaries unwilling to share data have historically made demographic targeting more blunt.
- Clicks: Digital advertising is often measured on click response, but clicks on mobile are often mistakes caused by “fat fingers.”
- Conversions: Even if a user clicks through a mobile ad, it’s difficult for her to input information into forms, the common goal in PC-based digital advertising. This depresses conversion rates to leads or sales, which in turn makes advertisers reluctant to spend on mobile.
Challenges for publishers
Organizations or news sites also face two major mobile problems:
- Cannibalization: Mobile apps are beginning to eat into web traffic. In 2012, traditionally strong web categories saw significant declines in visitors: maps were down 2%, online newspapers down 5%, and weather websites declined a whopping 12%. The simple push-button utility of mobile is beating the web, just as the web once hurt old printed newspapers.
- Stupid design: Also, most publishers don’t have mobile content that works well on phones or tablets. Many organizations continue to use websites designed for big PC and laptop windows, and avoid the newer “responsive design” that reflows content easily for small iPhones and iPads.
There are solutions to these challenges, namely creating content that works well on mobile, and experimenting with both mobile advertising and other native or app formats. For instance, numerous mobile ad networks allow marketers to purchase ads on efficient cost-per-click bases; Facebook mobile advertising provides new types of audience targeting; and app development should be an experimental line item on any media plan. Mobile also provides fantastic location-based targeting that could open up entirely new forms of marketing, including the holy grail of influencing consumers near the point-of-purchase decision.