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Mobile in the mix

Smartphones are no longer just for the upwardly mobile – and if you haven't figured out how to use them to your advantage, you need your head read.

Smartphones are no longer just for the upwardly mobile – and if you haven't figured out how to use them to your advantage, you need your head read.

I’m not much of a crystal ball gazer, but there a few obvious trends occurring that should be making a difference to the way we function in the world of brands.

The most obvious blip on the radar has to be the increasingly rapid adoption of smartphones. Apple’s iPhone may be the one I covet, but the rise of the Android has made access easier with lower price points. If my own behaviour is anything to go by, consumers will become more and more dependent on their mobile devices (and let’s not forget about tablets). In his book The Third Screen Chuck Martin describes us as The Untethered Consumers – able to do anything, anywhere, anytime without a cable connecting us to our networks.

The possibilities for marketers are pretty much endless to exploit from simple contact functions – there is nothing wrong with good old SMS – leveraging location based services, Quick Response (QR) codes, video, mobile versions of websites, apps, browsing the web – oh, and the telephone.

It surprises me that few retail brands are encouraging the use of location-based services like FourSquare or Facebook’s Check-In to identify and segment customers and make relevant offers to them. Imagine one morning checking into your local supermarket via FourSquare and being offered a reduced price on freshly baked croissants if you also buy a pack of plunger coffee. Stimulated and motivated, you add a coffee plunger to the mix. And to think you were only looking for some fruit for your lunch.

My favourite local restaurant in the Viaduct at Auckland is awash with technology but despite the fact that I have checked-in often enough to have been ‘The Mayor’, staff are blissfully unaware that I am influencing a reasonably large social network by my presence and implied endorsement. If they were savvier they might direct some of their technological armoury to listening to customers via social channels. I am just as likely to complain via Twitter as I am to write a glowing 140 character review – something I would never have done on my old stupid phone.

My smartphone changed my behavior in many ways. EFTPOS virtually eliminated my visits to my bank branch – and now I manage my accounts on my phone. I rarely use an ATM to check a balance and haven’t written a cheque for years. Like other consumers I crave utility. This is an important point. Creating apps for mobile devices has become a burgeoning industry, which will continue to grow. Most apps are downloaded, used initially and then deleted. If you’re going to invest in developing apps, make them useful and relevant to your customers.

Perhaps the most exciting area for growth is the potential for video. You might think that people don’t want to watch video on the relatively tiny screen. But you’d be wrong. According to Chuck Martin more than a quarter of smartphone users say they are more likely to click on video content than non-video content.

The challenge is to create content that is appropriate to the smaller small screen.

The negligible cost of distribution is promising but the cost of creation will remain a consideration. Compelling, useful video takes expertise. Expertise costs money. It will be important to keep things in balance. Creating an epic smartphone video experience that will only be viewed by a tiny audience will dampen your enthusiasm.

If you aren’t including mobile marketing into your mix you might be missing the moment. Which reminds me of an old country song – “If my phone still ain’t ringing I guess it still ain’t you.”