In less than a decade, mobile has fundamentally changed our lives. Shoppers now rely on mobile for every stage of the buying journey, from initial awareness to final purchase decision. When Google made the announcement last year that mobile had become the primary platform for online searches, they confirmed something most digital marketers already knew: we’re living in a mobile-first world. But just how well has the digital marketing industry kept up with these changes in consumer behavior?
Search Optics partnered with ClickZ Intelligence to survey 400 digital marketers worldwide about the tactics they currently utilize, as well as their plans for the future. Now that the results are in, we have a clear picture of the state of mobile advertising today.
The good news
There’s certainly some good news. For example, the evolution of digital marketing technology has enabled widespread adoption of some indispensable mobile-first tactics. A healthy 84 percent of client respondents and 79 percent of agency respondents report leveraging a responsive website design that offers full functionality on any size screen. This essential mobile-first tactic ensures audiences can access content when and where they need it, so it goes a long way toward greater engagement and conversion for brands.
Lots of room for improvement
But in other ways, the industry still has a lot of catching up to do. The study makes it clear that many digital marketers are failing to use every tactic at their disposal to reach mobile users—and they know it. In fact, 56 percent of respondents rated themselves as “beginners” in mobile marketing, and 46 percent said they do not believe their current mobile advertising spend is in line with their customers’ consumption of media through mobile. In a mobile-first world, that’s a big problem.
The path forward
The bottom line: while some expertise exists in digital marketing, the industry also has a lot to learn. It’s critical that digital marketers leverage a broader range of tactics to reach shoppers at every stage of the purchase funnel—and in all the mobile channels in which they seek out information. Here are three key tactics all digital marketers should consider when building a mobile-first strategy for 2016 and beyond:
1. Top of funnel: programmatic
Programmatic is more popular than ever: more than half of respondents report plans to increase their budget for programmatic display, programmatic mobile, or programmatic video in 2016. And it’s no wonder: programmatic offers digital marketers an unprecedented opportunity to target audiences based on data—so it’s well-suited for raising awareness among shoppers who may not have heard of a brand, but are likely to be interested in it. Users exposed to Search Optics Programmatic Mobile campaigns were 35 percent more likely to buy a new car compared to a geo-normalized benchmark, demonstrating programmatic’s effectiveness for increasing customers’ interest in a brand.
Additionally, programmatic offers a number of ways to measure campaign performance and ROI. Given that only 31 percent of survey respondents believe their approach to attribution enables them to see the true value of mobile advertising, programmatic could offer a much-needed solution. From mobile-enabled location studies, to advanced matchback using third-party data, to measuring purchase intent among audiences exposed to ads, programmatic advertising offers a new degree of certainty for digital marketers.
2. Middle of funnel: hyperlocal
Surprisingly few digital marketers—only 22 percent—say they are currently exploiting hyperlocal advertising to its full potential. What’s more, not a single hyperlocal tactic is used by a majority of advertisers. That means many digital marketers are missing the opportunity to connect with the rapidly growing numbers of consumers who conduct “near me” searches on a daily basis.
Using location data to deliver relevant information to audiences at exactly the right time can deliver astonishing results. For example, in one Search Optics hyperlocal campaign, audiences were 42 times more likely than a control group to visit a client restaurant location after exposure to ads. Given consumers’ growing appetite for customized, relevant communications, the digital marketing industry has only begun to scratch the surface of hyperlocal’s potential.
3. Bottom of funnel: paid search
Digital marketers have achieved great results with paid search, with agencies rating call extensions (90 percent), mobile bid modifiers (89 percent), and location extensions (87 percent) as good or excellent for return on investment. Their success with this tactic comes as no surprise, since paid search performs especially well on mobile. That’s because it’s easy to measure, and it’s frequently used by bottom-funnel shoppers who are actively searching for solutions. (Plus, ads appear at the top of search results, and smaller screens tend to discourage users from scrolling further down the page.)
Digital marketers can achieve even more success with paid search by leveraging new, mobile-specific tactics, such as enrolling in Google’s store visits beta program, which uses Android data to track the location of users clicking on ads. When a user walks into a client location after seeing a paid search ad, Google notes the results and displays them in AdWords next to clicks and impressions. This level of tracking represents the next step in ad targeting and will likely expand as mobile continues to grow.
It’s true that with the rapid expansion of mobile, digital marketing has grown more complex. As audiences seek out information in an increasingly diverse array of channels, marketers can no longer depend on large, homogenous audiences with a single set of needs and interests. However, by developing a holistic strategy that combines a range of mobile-first tactics, digital marketers can reach their customers in all the channels in which they seek out information—and in every stage of the buying journey. With broader, more rapid adoption of the newest innovations in digital marketing, we can drive our industry forward in lockstep with the pace of digital evolution as a whole.