Marketers always have to cope with changing communication habits and technologies; it’s been a couple of centuries since hanging a sign over your front door that says “Hats” or “Grocer” or somesuch was enough to get you a client base. Since then, marketers have dealt with the rise of newspapers, magazines, radio, telephones, televisions, and the Internet. And more and more, the new frontier of communication is the little glass rectangle in your coat pocket: your smart phone.
Yup, that ubiquitous device that makes you panic when you suddenly can’t find it. How much time do you spend using its web browser versus how much time you spend living in an app? And while the odds are that that app is either Facebook or Twitter, the fact is that all digital growth is now coming from mobile users, increasingly relegating the desktop computers that digital marketing is built around to a very secondary position.
Which means that we need to start thinking about marketing in very different ways – because people aren’t interacting with the platforms we depend on in the same ways anymore.
The Future Lives in Apps
The issue is simple: smartphones have taken over the digital world. It’s not just happening; it’s done.
Here are some hard numbers to prove it. Over half of all internet use is mobile. Half of all users use their mobile devices to check their email, and 30% only use mobile devices. A solid quarter of all consumers start their product research with a branded app. And – here’s the real kicker – smartphone conversion rates are up 64% compared to desktop conversion rates.
Apps are the primary way people use their smartphones – and Google is taking notice, indexing apps ranking companies that use them higher in relevant commercial searches. We’re facing a very possible future in which websites are increasingly a secondary interface, as users increasingly migrate to the mobile landscape, filled with specific apps tied to specific brands.
So why is this happening?
It’s simple: shifting to mobile has made analog interaction increasingly a non-factor; the rules of engagement for small form-factor touch devices are simply not that of a website, and even mobile-optimized sites are still designed primarily with mouse-and-keyboard interactions in mind. Google, always at the bleeding edge of these trends, saw the writing on the wall; their mobile app is designed with a total mobile user experience in mind rather than adapting and replicating the desktop service, including natural language voice search.
And modern mobile OSes conduct comprehensive searches, indexing both the entire Internet and the contents of the services app store – alongside the individual user’s device itself! The best solution is the one with the least friction between the goal and execution, and increasingly, being the best solution means making yourself immediately accessible.
Not “easily;” immediately.
So What Does This Mean?
Well, my young padawan, it means that we need to start rethinking what our available channels are and how we can best utilize them.
Start, for example, with emails; are emails driving people to website landing pages the best use of the format? We’re going to hit a point in the next several years where a majority of email users primarily access their accounts via mobile devices, so we need to start asking ourselves what the most effective conversion path going forward should be, from app-to-app.
That could mean developing a proprietary app to replace your mobile site, or simply looking at how taking advantage of existing app infrastructures – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter – can be utilized to serve your brand. Perhaps driving someone to a Facebook event page right in the app would encourage higher conversions?
A fantastic example of this are those businesses participating in Seamless or GrubHub, integrating their ordering experience into a meaningful app-based technology infrastructure while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction. That’s worth a lot more than any website-based ordering system.
Mobile provides profound new marketing opportunities; they’re data-generating, GPS-tracked devices that are constantly interacting with networks, mobile beacons, social networks, and human voices. These represent a massive wealth of opportunities that canny marketers are starting to notice – but nowhere near enough of which are making full use of.
Any vision for the next ten years needs to have a strong focus on turning app-based solutions into seamless marketing channels with real revenue potential.
In other words, keeping an eye on the future at this point is going to mean being willing to take silly risks over tried-and-true methods – because the tried-and-true rests on a desktop user paradigm that is increasingly a relic of the early 2000s more than a meaningful path forward. Even inbound marketing, as it currently stands, depends on providing access to content over access to product solutions optimized for how people actually use technology to interact with the world around them.
That could be as simple as offering app users a coupon every time they walk by your location, or providing branded, free-to-use B2B app technology services – that only get more valuable once you pay in to the larger service.
The future of marketing lies in keeping the logic behind inbound running: providing real solutions to real user needs in the most seamless way possible. It’s just a matter of keeping up with what “seamless” really, truly means.