Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tablets: The New Mobile Device

My post today comes to you courtesy of the Heartland Mobile Council’s blog, where I penned a short article yesterday about tablets. Are they mobile?

Tablets have been touted as hybrid devices, filling the niche that existed between the laptop PC and the smartphone. While this may be true (just don’t tell that to anyone that was on the netbook wagon a short while ago), for marketers, the tablet is essentially a mobile device and should be treated as such – in my opinion.

With some tablets, this is a natural association to make; many look and function like souped-up versions of their manufacturers’ top-tier smartphone. But the most popular tablet, the iPad, has been positioned as unique from any existing mobile device, and so marketers have approached this platform with strategies that differ from those utilized with the mobile channel.

This, however, is changing, and as tablets become more popular will continue to change.

Part of the reason for this evolution is a gradual refinement in marketers’ approach to mobile marketing. Just a few years ago, bilateral communication, through voice or SMS (text messaging), was the pinnacle of mobile marketing. Now it is a truly rich environment, hinging as much on native apps as on the burgeoning mobile web.

While direct marketing continues to be effective, it’s no longer the only tool in any company’s marketing kit. Tablets, without the universal capability for voice and SMS communication, are the beneficiaries of this fleshed-out mobile marketing ecosystem. Many of the strategies aimed at the smartphone-owning market also translate to the tablet-owning market; rich native apps, access to the mobile web, and the combined capacity of a device that can both be taken on the go and features the computing power comparable to a laptop are all extensions of a robust mobile marketing strategy aimed at tablets.

Which, of course, leads to the other part of the reason that the tablet market will (and should be) considered a mobile market: the tablets themselves.

Since the iPad was introduced last year, the trend has been toward more, not less, direct connectivity. Apps have been developed to augment and improve the ability of most tablets to function as one-to-one communication devices, and every tablet features the critical portability aspect. The prevailing impression of tablet computers may be as couch-bound entertainment devices, but in reality, they’re built for the proverbial road.

Marketers ought to be capitalizing on these two aspects of the tablet trend. Location awareness should figure in heavily in tablet marketing strategies, just as it represents a fast-growing tactic in most mobile strategies. Apps that access the mobile web will eventually take precedence over native apps, just as that evolution is underway in the mobile sphere. Payment via tablet should become as prevalent as payment via smartphone, and tablet apps should become as monetized through placement and advertisement as mobile apps are.

By accepting that the tablet is the latest mobile technology to engage consumers – and not a ‘third-way’ niche product that necessitates a reinvention of the marketing wheel – marketers can begin to leverage this category to its fullest.

Of course, not everyone will agree with my view that the tablet is indeed a mobile device. What’s your take?

You can read the post on the HMC post here and click here for details of the HMC’s Tablet Seminar on April 13th to learn more and continue the discussion!

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