Google and other search engines have been talking about "the year of mobile" for the past three or four years. Google even changed its algorithm in 2015 to prioritize mobile-friendliness when optimizing search results. But lacking measurable results or experience in the area, brands and advertisers have tended to consider the shift more a trend than a game changer.
Over the past couple of years, however, mobile devices have become the primary driver of search traffic. In the third quarter of 2017, nearly 60 percent of Google search queries were conducted from mobile devices.
At this point, it is incumbent on marketers to fully embrace mobile devices as a valuable engagement tool or risk failing to connect with a growing base of consumers. In reality, what we previously considered "mobile-first" is now the status quo, and marketers need to change with the times.
What Does Mobile Engagement Mean for Online and App Brands?
As marketers and brands learn to adapt and embrace mobile as a vital part of how they engage with consumers, the trickiest part is measuring the success of a mobile campaign. Even when marketers understand the importance of mobile devices, they don’t always understand the new rules of engagement or how to measure success.
Companies like Machine Zone, Wish, Snapchat, Waze, Postmates, and Uber came into the world with the sole purpose of driving traffic and engagement through their mobile apps. However, web-first brands can find it more challenging to pull off a successful mobile marketing campaign. They might have a website, perhaps even a blog, but these alone don’t constitute successful engagement.
By design, a truly mobile-first brand relies almost solely on mobile apps and marketing campaigns. There’s only one place to drive traffic — the brand’s app — and they’re usually very efficient at pointing consumers there. By contrast, a web-only brand has several avenues to drive engagement and conversion and must optimize its engagement points accordingly.
Some brands, though, are neither web-only nor app-only. They provide both a web experience and application experience, and in many cases, they’re still trying to figure out how to engage with consumers on both fronts. Giving consumers both options can open up limitless possibilities, but it can also be cumbersome if you aren’t able to accurately measure success across all touchpoints.
Audience engagement is one of the more elusive factors to measure. If you have a website and an application, how do you measure cross-device engagement? Marketers are used to knowing everything right away, like how much a click costs and how much revenue came from it. The same metrics can’t be as easily tracked across multiple mobile devices.
Rather than looking only at sales and revenue, web-and-app brands have to look at all the avenues through which consumers engage with them. Someone completing a web form, calling the number in your mobile app, or engaging with your app or website’s chat function are all indications of successful mobile engagement, not just the point of sale.
Making Mobile Engagement Work
If you only look at mobile engagement as a way to drive sales and revenue, then you’re only doing your brand and your consumers a disservice. To make mobile engagement work, you can’t expect the same scenarios to play out as they always have or for consumers to interact in the same way all the time.
When optimizing your mobile campaign, remember these three important tips:
1. Don’t shy away from assumptions.
Marketers don’t hear this often, but in the changing landscape of fluid mobile interaction, you have to be OK with making certain assumptions. Be comfortable with the information you have in front of you, such as cross-device conversion estimates, and take them into serious consideration as part of your total conversion count.
Search queries made on mobile devices are not the same as those made on a laptop or desktop computer. Query strings are longer on mobile devices than on computers, and people interact with brands differently when mobile devices are involved. One customer might enter a search query on a tablet, compare products on a laptop, and then call on a smartphone to get directions to your brick-and-mortar store.
It might be easier to ignore estimates and not give them credit when what they’re tied to isn’t perfectly clear, but as a marketer, you have to break out of your comfort zone. You need to accept new types of data, especially when it’s related to mobile interaction. Then, you can optimize your marketing campaign to increase those estimates where they matter most.
2. Change your mentality on engagement.
The traditional KPIs used to analyze desktop interaction are long-term. Is the person clicking to get the address or directions to the store or completing a form on the website? Are consumers adding to their online carts and completing their purchases from the desktop?
On mobile, however, these same interactions occur moment by moment across a variety of devices. The most successful brands understand the difference in how people interact with mobile technology and appeal to those differences to create broader consumer engagement.
If you can change your long-term mentality, then you can stop emphasizing the sale as the end goal of engagement. Instead, you can optimize each point of engagement for interactions that are more characteristic of mobile users, such as researching and getting directions. Think of each of these as a success signal to truly reap the benefits of your mobile marketing campaign.
3. Ditch the forms.
Old habits are hard to break, and even in the quest to make websites mobile-friendly, many brands still focus on driving consumers to a lead form. It might be hard to accept, but forms can be difficult for consumers to complete on mobile devices; they might not always be the best way to generate leads or conversions.
Instead, many brands are ditching forms for simpler alternatives like click-to-call ads that are much more convenient for consumers on the go. Google helps make this switch easier by providing betas that expand your brand’s phone conversion and tracking abilities. Consumers can interact with brands through SMS messaging, and you can add call extensions to boost your brand’s position in search results.
For instance, service-based brands like Terminix and American Home Shield aim for higher lead generation, which they typically drive through online forms. By optimizing their sites for mobile use and ditching the forms, they can make it easier for consumers to convert while making it simpler to track calls that come through mobile devices.
Like the internet itself, mobile technology has completely changed the way consumers interact with brands, and now it’s time for marketers to catch up evolving beyond being just a “mobile-friendly” experience instead adopting the notion that we are now all in a mobile-first environment.
The good news? The tools and tactics you need are already at your fingertips. The only real challenge is to adapt your strategy and metrics to the new landscape of mobile interaction so you can truly harness the potential of mobile marketing.
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