Monday, June 18, 2012

News Flash: Mobile is the Future! Is the Marketing World Keeping Up?

Last week Wal-Mart’s CEO Joel Anderson announced, with the proper captain-of-industry gravitas, that mobile is the future.

“I can't overstate how mobile is changing how we interact with our consumers,” he proclaimed at the 2012 Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago.

Why are still having this conversation when I, and a lot of agencies and brand marketers I know, have been saying this since 2005?

Let’s start with going back to 2007. That was the year that hundreds of thousands of Americans camped outside Apple stores and stood for hours in queues that wrapped around the block to part with up to $599 for the much-coveted “Jesus Phone” (I think we all know what insanely popular gadget I’m talking about).
In 2008 researchers at the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report wherein tech leaders and analysts predicted that mobile devices will be the primary way most of us access the Internet by 2020. That mobile is the future hasn’t been news for a while, but Anderson’s quote made me wonder if marketers are truly doing enough to tap the enormous potential of these mobile devices that spend increasing amounts of time in our hands – and in front of our eyes.

Let’s take North America, for example. Last year, North American marketers spent $40.2 billion on marketing content as a whole. By comparison, they spent about $1.6 billion on mobile ads and marketing during the same year. That means mobile represents only a tiny sliver of the overall marketing budget pie – just over 4%.

When you consider that in the US alone 88% of adults have a mobile phone (46% of those devices are smartphones), you realize that the amount of money being allocated for mobile marketing just isn’t enough. It’s barely a drop in the bucket.

We’re fortunate to work with a number of companies who understand there’s an untapped goldmine in mobile marketing and that its potential can only grow considering the rates of smartphone and tablet adoption – and what they can do to connect and engage with consumers, and ultimately sell more stuff.

I understand the reluctance of the companies who are hesitant to allocate big budgets to any one channel, mobile being the least “tested.” But the world – and consumers – aren’t waiting around for them to dig up the willingness to make that leap. They are losing out on the ability to target consumers with relevant and timely messages delivered at moments of maximum influence.

So while Wal-Mart’s CEO may be a tad late to the party, I’m hoping that those words from the head of the world’s largest retailer will reassure gun-shy marketers enough for them to take some necessary risks.  Let’s see.

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