Smartphones - Upwardly Mobile

Today’s smartphone can do your emails, Google searches, music playlists, Facebook and banking as quickly and easily as your computer. But it can also be a GPS device, loyalty card, credit card, camera and remote control for your TV.

They don’t call it the ‘Swiss Army knife’ of technology for nothing. And Australians have taken to it in droves, with over 50 per cent having one, one of the highest rates in the world.

When you consider that the processing power of a 2012 smartphone is the equivalent of a notebook computer in 2009, and that these phones have built-in technology like cameras, GPS, bluetooth, gyroscopes and near field communication, it’s no wonder that marketers and advertisers are rushing to take advantage. Even more so when recent research reported by Forbes showed that click- through rates on smartphones were 72 per cent higher than click- through rates of consumers on desktop computers.

There are now signs that consumers prefer to be connected to the internet via their smartphones more so than their computer. In a recent campaign for a major brand in Australia, 80 per cent of consumers sought out more information via their smartphones, and only 20 per cent via their computers. And already over six million Australians have done some form of banking on their mobile device. The business numbers back this up, with Apple making more revenue just from its iPhone than Microsoft did for all of its products, in a recent three-month sales period.

Starbucks was one of the earliest brands to embrace mobile at the start of 2011. Since then they have processed over 70 million payments instore via smartphones. Many of these phones also stored a digital equivalent of a Starbucks loyalty card, so they were able to capture the data around purchases and develop personalised offers to those customers. Australians carry an average of 16 loyalty and/ or credit cards in their wallets, and many brands including MYER are already encouraging their customers to ditch the plastic card and have a digital version of it on their phones.
Google has taken this one step further in their recent launch of Google Now for smartphones. Google accesses information from your phone, like your location, your diary and recent Google searches, to serve up intuitive information before you even think you need it. Today it told me that I had to leave for a meeting 28 minutes beforehand to get there on time, gave me the best route to drive there, and told me that the weather would be sunny and where the two best coffee shops near the meeting location were. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that soon it will be sending me offers to entice me to one of those coffee shops, or the office supplies store 100 metres down the road.

In the retail environment, mobile marketing is becoming just as personalised. Stores in the US are trialling bluetooth and wi-fi technology that accurately tracks your location and movements through that store via your mobile phone. It then serves you up real time and relevant offers or ads as you walk through the store. Marketers can also use the tracking information to improve the
store design and optimise their product displays. Others are trialling near field communications, where customers can tap their mobile phone against a product with a similar chip attached to it, and it automatically opens a mobile website or app with more information about that product.

Interestingly, smartphones aren’t just for people on the move. Usage is now highest in the home. Half of the Australian population use their mobile device while watching TV, to interact via social media or to search for more information. No longer do people have to wait until the end of a MasterChef episode to download the recipe they liked on their computer. Nowadays it appears instantaneously in social media as part of the conversation, and consumers can choose to download a list of ingredients to their phone, or buy them via the Coles mobile app. Already close to 30 per cent of Australians have made a purchase using their mobile phone, and the majority of them have done so more than once.

St.George Bank recently launched an Australian first, providing an ability to apply for a credit card via its mobile app. More and more Australian consumers are doing things like this via their smartphone rather than their computer. Marketers need to start thinking about mobile first too. The days of building a website and then thinking about how that might look on an iPad or smartphone are in the past - it’s already swung the other way. The more forward-thinking brands are already working out how best to engage customers through smartphone technology first, desktop second. It’s becoming a key element of marketing strategy, and it won’t be long before it may be the key driver in other campaign elements. Brands that are not yet taking this technology and its widespread appeal among consumers seriously enough need to shift their mindsets quickly. Mobile first – no longer last – is a phrase that marketers will be far more familiar with in the future.