Mobile Marketing: There Isn’t An App For That

Digital tablet, mobile phone with lens flare. Close up.

We’re well and truly in the age of mobile. And yet, there are still some companies out there who don’t know what they’re doing. Marketo’s managing director Aden Forrest shares his view on why this is in this opinion piece.

Dana Dobbie
Posted by Dana Dobbie

The last few years have seen a flurry of mobile apps. Google Play and Apple’s App Store each have around 1.5 million to choose from. There’s a burgeoning industry of app developers and, no doubt, company bosses demanding that their marketing team produce one, to show how they’re on top of the opportunity.

It’s easy to see why they’d think that. Here in Australia more than 85 per cent of us have a smartphone and, according to Deloitte’s Media Consumer Survey, more than half of us have the trifecta – a tablet, laptop and smart phone. IAB Australia’s latest Online Landscape Review (April 2015) shows that 64 per cent of daily unique browsers came from portable devices, and we’re about to reach the tipping point, where we spend more time staring at a mobile screen than watching TV.

This is a quantum shift in media consumption patterns. Understandably, to capitalise on mobile, marketers have turned to apps. Late last year Nielsen found that 86 per cent of the time we spend on smartphones is spent using apps.

Of course, the fact that people use apps doesn’t mean they’ll download yours. For a start, much of that app time will be on Facebook and other social media. The only way to get into that environment is through content marketing or advertising.

Like any successful marketing, you have to be where the people are and that usually means, at least in part, using good old fashioned advertising – whether its on a web page or inside some else’s app.

The problem is, for many, mobile ads don’t always work that well. A US study from Darmouth College found campaigns often failed because people weren’t in a receptive mood and content was taking too long to download. Most also complained of the difficulty in getting back to what they were doing before they clicked on an ad.

A study by the Content Marketing Institute highlights that many marketers believe they could ‘do mobile’ better. Three quarters of B2C marketers (and slightly less in the B2B sector) are looking to create a better mobile strategy this year. Why now? Is it because they’ve been struggling with exactly how to effectively market to mobile users? I suspect so.

In part, the problem seems to lie with attention to detail. In the Dartford study 72 percent said their screens were too small for ads. That suggests advertisers aren’t adept at developing their content for the medium, despite the rise in optimisation technologies that can ensure that specific formats are delivered to each device.

In Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Marketing, Nancy Hua, CEO of Apptimize (a company that runs A/B testing for mobile apps), says the problem is we often see ads that point to content that has not been optimised. She said, “the landing experience is often disjointed or confusing so I don’t end up engaging.”

It’s a fundamental starting point for any campaign featuring mobile. Yet, when you run major Australian brands through mobile emulator sites like, the results can be astonishing: many main sites are not mobile ready, let alone specific campaign landing pages.

The challenge with mobile marketing is that it’s complicated. There are many moving parts. You have to understand consumer behaviour and work through every stage in the journey, looking for pitfalls that could kill the end to end experience.

The other danger comes from treating mobile in isolation. The notion that creating an app will suddenly build an affinity with your audience is as naïve as those marketers who, in the early days of the internet, assumed the mere presence of a website would gravitate traffic in their direction.

Mobile has to be seen as part of the broader digital ecosystem. It can provide powerful behavioural data and, in the right context, can be the best way to generate a call to action, but marketers have to understand what’s happened before – on other devices.

If it seems too complex to get your head around, get ready for the Internet of Things. We’ll have many more devices, each providing opportunities and feedback for marketers. It all calls for a systematic, data-driven approach to marketing. Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Mobile Marketing is a good starting point for those keen to do more with mobile, but aren’t quite sure how.

That appears to be a description for many of us. Even though it’s a medium about to eclipse television for our screen time, mobile accounted for just four percent of Australia’s online advertising spend in 2014[v]. It looks like an opportunity waiting to happen.