The Rise Of Mobile Marketing : Marketing :: American Express OPEN Forum

June 10, 2011

Look around you. How many people have their noses in their cell phones? Wouldn’t it be great if they were looking at your ads on their screens?

According to comScore, there are now 74.6 million U.S. consumers with smartphones, and an April study by Ipsos OTX for Google found that people do respond to mobile ads. Four in five smartphone users browse the Web on their devices, and three-fourths use mobile search. The study found that 42 percent of users click on mobile ads they see on smartphones, and, of those, 49 percent go on to buy something or convert somehow, whether that’s visiting the advertiser’s website later or calling the business on the spot.

Research firm BIA/Kelsey forecasts U.S. Mobile advertising to reach $2.9 billion in 2014. But you don’t need to be a million-dollar company to hop on, nor do you need a trendy ad agency. For $30 on your credit card, you can have a mobile site and do mobile advertising tonight.

A year ago, Google launched AdWords for Mobile, but you need to provide your own mobile website. With the proliferation of different-sized screens and operating systems, this is too much of a challenge for many SMBs. Two new services from MerchantCircle and Where take away those headaches by automatically translating your website for mobile displays while providing simple interfaces for launching mobile campaigns.

MerchantCircle is an online network of local businesses that provides free pages that companies can modify or personalize. It recently launched the Merchant Mobile App, which, in addition to providing the ability to update pages via an iPhone, also lets them offer coupons and daily deals.

Gino Orfitelli, owner of ePRO Computer Repair in Southington, Connecticut, says he runs his business almost completely on his iPhone, getting on the computer only in the evening when he returns from working at clients’ locations. “Most of the traditional avenues, like print, radio, TV or coupon books, don’t work for my business model,” Orfitelli says.

He uses the mobile app to keep his website content fresh and at the top of search engine results. He also sends out coupons and marketing e-mails via the mobile interface—MerchantCircle automatically formats these to match consumers’ devices.

“Everything we create, we think about the mobile device as a major entry point,” says Darren Waddell, vice president of marketing and product management at MerchantCircle. “The simplicity of the whole thing is exciting. Instead of doing marketing stuff when they get home, now business owners can steal time waiting for an appointment or whatever, and take a couple of minutes to update their status or send a coupon.”

Where, now part of eBay’s PayPal division, launched a merchant services portal in April that allows local businesses to claim and enhance their listings for free. When you create your page, it is automatically translated for mobile devices, as well.

Arik Keller, senior director of product for Where, says the service provides a “very simple, elegant rendering of your business information.”

Next, you can use the portal to create ads or offer two types of deals: a “buy-it-now” limited-time offer, or a coupon that consumers can purchase to use later. (PayPal will become the payment mechanism for these down the road.) There are three tiers of pricing for campaigns, starting at $30 payable with a credit card.

Combining location with time-sensitive offers is the best strategy for mobile advertising, according to Jed Williams, program director for the social/local media advisory service of BIA Kelsey.

“It’s an obvious choice for restaurants and retail, those that might want to run a clearance sale or have dynamic inventory or perishable goods that need to be moved quickly,” Williams says. While there isn’t a strong business case for every company, he notes that, “If I’m out looking for lunch, [mobile advertising] can not only push me a recommendation about a lunch place but also about other things to do in the area.”

Combining mobile ads with mobile payments could greatly increase the effectiveness of mobile ads, according to Keller.

“People will start buying things before they walk into the store down the street. They’ll buy the $20 voucher for pizza when they’re two miles away,” he says.

Says Keller, “You probably see that half the people in your store are on the phone, so you know mobile is a channel you need to be thinking about. This is a very measurable way to advertise something about your business.”

Consumers have become very willing to divulge their locations in return for value, according to Williams, and the success of Groupon has created a paradigm shift. “As mobile adoption continues to accelerate, consumer expectation of their interaction with brands will change. They will expect to be able to find and consume content, even from local brands, the same way they do on the desktop. Suddenly just getting an e-mail in the inbox won’t be enough,” Williams adds