December 6, 2010

Go For Bigger Mobile Budgets For The Holidays Now!

(Read in entirety at Search Engine Land – October, 2010)

The 2010 mobile holiday season is now just 30 days out. In last month’s column, I outlined dozens of mobile web page optimization best practices to improve sales and generally avoid the “you suck” lump of stocking coal this season. To underscore the opportunity and concern, Internet Retailer announced last week at the Mobile Commerce conference, fascinating survey results from 150 retailers (chain stores, web-only, catalog and manufacturing brands). Among the useful tidbits: 79% of retailers are going into holiday season with neither a mobile web site or mobile apps. But nearly 50% do plan to get there within the next 12 months. To me that means every single consumer brand has a very timely, unique and strategic opportunity this season to steal mobile customers from the competition and cement long-term loyalty with your holiday shoppers.

Not surprisingly, the survey cites “limited budget” and “other priorities” as the chief reasons behind retailers’ lack of mobile presence. But if that’s your organization, let me put this in perspective: We live in a world where Apple just earned twice as much revenue in a quarter from smartphone sales (iPhone, iPad) than Google earned from selling AdWords – ($9 Billion vs $4.5 Billion). Let that sink in! There are over 111,000,000 Apple smartphone devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) and over 45,000,000 Google Android-powered devices in the hands of web-minded consumers, right now. Not even including leaders’ RIMM or Nokia smartphone numbers, that’s half the US population. “Limited budget” and “other priorities” will become reasons for this consumer base to buy from mobile-friendly websites this season and avoid those that don’t.

The smartphone is disruptive and emerging faster than people thought. It clearly has the potential to analytically bind all retail channels together (desktop web, catalog, storefront, call-center) and answer those elusive questions about cross-channel impact and attribution. Ironically, it is the absence of those answers that most prevents marketers from moving into mobile more aggressively.

As with SEO, the problem mobile web marketing faces is analytical in nature. It’s an attribution problem: mobile consumers use the device for top-funnel activity that other channels often get credit for. The channel goes under-valued, under-resourced and under-prioritized. Hence marketers face the chicken-or-egg options: rely on inadequate or narrow metrics (like same-session mobile web sales) to create the ROI case, or let a deficient mobile presence alienate the base. Yet without a commitment to mobile-friendly pages and content, it seems that getting 5% of your traffic from smartphones is just self-fulfilling prophecy.

The opportunity is to take a more holistic and quantitative view of mobile consumer behavior and more closely approximate mobile’s real impact on business right now. Here are three of those “hiding places” to begin looking more closely at, to measure and augment your mobile sales data with.

Search. Google hasn’t disclosed what percentage of overall search query volume originates from mobile devices, but reports mobile query volume growth of 500% over the past two years (inline with smartphone growth). Mobile searching shows higher intent, and click-through rates as good if not better than desktop. As the mobile search market grows, your competition benefits from your absent ads and poor user experience. Are you taking advantage of Google’s mobile PPC segmentation? Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, does a very compelling job targeting PPC ads at iPhone users. However the desktop-oriented landing page takes 30 seconds to load (on wifi) and seems to have suddenly forgotten what device you’re on. Take advantage of mobile PPC segmentation, and at bare minimum stand up static mobile landing pages for your top 80/20 PPC keyword campaigns. Compare impressions, click-through and sales data against desktop web to determine how much incremental business mobile search is capable of driving.

Social. Facebook is the most used smartphone app across devices. Out of 500 million members, 150 million use their smartphone to update and check status. This means fan page followers are increasingly consuming your posts on their device. If upon click-through they are greeted by a mobile unoptimized page and/or load your URL from the desktop, which channel gets credit? Does your web analytic system break out Facebook referral traffic by device type? Are you listening for mentions of your brand? Are you making it easy for mobile consumers of your pages to share your URLs on Facebook? There are many great social listening companies making it easier to measure the value of these interactions, so don’t ignore them in building your mobile attribution model.

Local. Google Maps is the second most popular smartphone app among consumers. What impact is it having on your business? A significant and growing portion of your call volume is being driven by this type of mobile activity. Are you sure you show up? I recently used Google Maps to search for the phone number to the nearest sporting goods store. They didn’t show up in Google Maps. They didn’t get my business this time. Meanwhile Cabella’s nearest store is present. By providing Google with a unique landing page URL for each store, their marketing team can isolate local web (and mobile) traffic. You should also use custom call-center phone numbers to attribute call volume properly to mobile/local search.

Mobile consumers may be buying online but most are using their smartphones to search, socialize and find local businesses. If you’re just using mobile sales as your yardstick, you are significantly under-investing in, and under-performing for, your mobile customer base. Using metrics that quantify more holistic behavior will help you better calculate true mobile ROI and right-size your mobile marketing programs. Use these next 30 days to position yourself for competitive advantage this holiday season, and into 2011.

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