Smartphones have been around for years, but businesses are just starting to figure out how to make money from them. The nascent sector is learning fast, though—and so could you. "What's happening now with mobile will make everything that's happened online seem minor," says Mitch Joel, Montreal-based marketing pro and author of the upcoming CTRL ALT DEL. Two areas of mobile tech show particularly rapid growth—and potential.
Billions of consumers worldwide spend hours on their smartphones, but only 5% of digital advertising goes to mobile devices, according to a study by PwC U.S. One major reason for this disconnect is the arena's complexity, with various ad networks and exchanges, and real-time bidding, disparate phone platforms and service providers, and few shared standards for advertising delivery and measurement.
Finding ways to solve these problems is one way to participate in what a recent report from Business Insider Intelligence, the research arm of the Web magazine, calls "a bonanza similar to online advertising a decade ago."
That's because mobile is by far the fastest-growing advertising medium. Google looks set to triple its mobile-advertising revenue this year, and Facebook's third-quarter results showed that in a mere six months, its revenue from ads on mobile devices went from nothing to 14% of sales. Search advertising currently dominates, but startups are testing new ad formats tailored to mobile traffic and exploiting such benefits of mobile ads as high intrusiveness (in advertising, that's a good thing).
According to Hua Marketing, a Florida-based online-marketing consultancy, 79% of smartphone owners have already used their devices for shopping, whether to redeem coupons, research or make a purchase. In a single month this summer, web traffic tracker comScore found that 86 million smartphone users accessed retail content via mobile devices.
But retailers have yet to figure out how to engage consumers throughout the shopping process. "With mobile, it's now feasible to track an individual from the very first intention to shop for an item to the actual purchase at point-of-sale," notes a report from BI Intelligence. With so-called location targeting, shoppers can be enticed into stores as they pass by, and nudged toward picking specific brands with messages that pop up on their phones.
Mobile searches are also driving a growing share of traffic to online stores. Retailers of all sizes badly need help in navigating this arena through software solutions or consulting help.