Harnessing the Mobile Audience

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I remember sitting across a conference table, my team on one side, marketers from a major consumer electronics company on the other, and the question was asked:

“What is the single most important thing we should be focused on that we aren’t already?”

Our unequivocal response was: “mobile.”

That was almost 3 years ago, a lifetime in digital, and though some progress has been made on the digital front by brands, they continue, for the most part, to be dragged along by the tide. As terms like “Mobile First” become dated and terms like “Mobile Primary” and  “Mobile-Only” become vogue, we are witness to consumers making a clear choice about how they consume branded content and make their way through the marketing and sales funnel.

In fact, it’s the realization of this trend that led me from the agency world to the marketing technology world back in January of 2013. It’s also the reason why Janrain has declared May to be “Mobile May” and will spend the month sharing best practices for mobile as well as educating on the mobile capabilities within the Customer Identity Management platform.

For many consumers mobile means access to a world that hasn’t always given information cheaply and easily. I was a privileged Gen-X’er, whose mom came home with that giant box containing our first HP/Compaq/Gateway (who can remember?) personal computer. For many in my neighborhood years would pass until they also had a PC in their homes.

Fast forward more years than I’m willing to claim, and that same post-millennial kid has access to a sub-three hundred dollar tablet or a subsidized mobile device and free wi-fi almost anywhere. In her treatise on The Rise of the Mobile-Only User, Karen McGrane makes it clear: “For this growing population, if your content doesn’t exist on the mobile screen, it doesn’t exist at all.”

Who comprises this growing population? According to the Pew Internet Research Project, they are 55% of adult Americans who own mobile devices and use them to go online (about 150 million people). Of that group, 17% use their mobile devices for most of their online browsing (about 25 million people). There are a couple of important details to note however:

  • This data does not include the 45% of consumers under the age of 18 who have “smart” mobile devices.
  • When looking specifically at millennials ages 18 – 29, nearly 45% use their mobile devices for most of their online browsing.
  • 51% of all African-Americans and 42% of Latinos use their mobile device for most of their online browsing.

For brands that aren’t yet mobile-focused, the above represents your untapped audience. But as these patterns emerge, so do certain challenges with regard to audience targeting. Cookies, which have historically been the most reliable method for targeting digital consumers, are far less effective on the mobile web and completely ineffective within native apps. This means that despite the fact that an individual consumers connection to the web has become more intimate because of mobile, managing customer identity becomes more difficult. Further, there is evidence to indicate that mobile devices are reducing our attention span per Mobile Marketer:

“Many industry experts believe that mobile and social have impacted consumer tolerance – or rather the impatience with messaging and filtering information they can or cannot use.”

This raises the stakes for customer profile generation and the ability to harness consumer data. Mobile means that it’s harder to know me and that you have less time or opportunity to activate me. If cookies aren’t reliable then you’ll need to ask me to register, but will I really spend my precious few minutes completing your form with seemingly unnecessary information and establishing a username and password? Maybe. Now how about that email confirmation? Maybe not.

At Janrain we work hard everyday to solve two critical marketing problems: making it easy for a customer to create an identity with a brand and easy for that brand to use consumer social data to give that customer exactly what they’re looking for regardless of whether the interaction point is mobile, tablet or desktop. We call this Marketing Continuity. You’ll hear more about this in the upcoming white paper “Mobile Login Best Practices” and webinar “Mobile is the New Black” on May 29th. Keep checking out our blog where you’ll find thought leadership pieces on mobile throughout the month written by experts from within and outside of Janrain.