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It can feel as though we are constantly being bombarded with facts, figures and statistics about mobile. But what does any of it mean, and how can we start to make sense of the mobile jungle? This was the theme of Maximising Mobile, hosted by GfK at the iconic BAFTA location in London, which aimed to simplify the mobile market and help businesses navigate this complex space.
Mobile is huge: 67% of the UK population owns a smartphone . For most of us, our phone is the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing we see at night, in no small part due to the convenience of alarm clock apps. People love using their mobile devices for work and play and, according to Tim Elkington of the IAB, this has driven a rapid increase in the proportion of UK ad spend accounted for by mobile advertising.
Elkington shared data from the IAB and PwC’s 2013 Digital Adspend Study which found that, though mobile ad spend is currently just 5.8% of the total UK ad spend, it increased by over 93% like for like between 2012 and 2013. Comparing mobile ad spend in 2013 to online ad spend ten years prior, when it was at a similar point in its lifecycle, mobile significantly outperformed online with almost twice the spend at £1bn. Elkington went on to make a bold prediction on the figure mobile ad spend could hit in 2014, and we will look forward to seeing how close he came this time next year.
Despite this increased spend, mobile advertising still reaches only a small segment of the UK’s smartphone audience. This presents a massive opportunity for growth, and Head of GfK’s Digital Market Intelligence team Babita Earle discussed how businesses can best take advantage of it by developing an effective mobile strategy based around four simple questions:
1. Who is my audience?
2. How do I target them?
3. How can I optimise their interaction with my brand?
4. How can I measure success?
Earle walked the audience through a number of case studies showing this approach in practice, spanning industries from retail and fashion to travel and finance, using data and analysis from GfK’s Mobile Insights solution. She demonstrated how the data could be used to establish audience reach relative to competitors and build user profiles, how brands could use niche location targeting to yield high returns and how to determine whether an app or site-based strategy would work best. In an example that we can all relate to, healthy food tracking apps and calorie counters were found to peak in usage at the beginning of the week when people are filled with good intentions, before falling significantly on weekends as temptation becomes too difficult to resist.
As Earle joked, if you’re a grocery retailer, you could be most successful in promoting salads on Monday and holding off until Saturday to push deep-fried Mars bars.
Understanding consumer behaviour on mobile platforms in this way is absolutely vital to FMCG giant Unilever. Henry Nicholson and Joe Comiskey spoke of the central role mobile plays for Unilever’s brands, arguing that mobile is a ‘must’ and not just a ‘nice to have’. Explaining that consumers often research online but purchase offline and frequently switch between multiple devices, Comiskey highlighted the importance of optimising the user experience by identifying both how the consumer uses the smaller mobile screen and why they are using a mobile device rather than a tablet or PC. In one case, Unilever found that people visiting hair brand Tresemme’s site on a mobile device were most often looking for specific product information while out shopping; product information is therefore placed front and centre on an optimised mobile site distinct from the brand’s desktop offering.
Comiskey finished with a short film showing consumers in 1999 talking about their attitudes towards mobile phones. “It’s handy, but if I get stuck there’s always a farm or a phone booth nearby”, reasoned one. “People can send me a letter and if it’s urgent they can call me at home”, argued another. While these old-fashioned opinions certainly raised a laugh in the room, businesses risk being just as outdated if they treat mobile as an afterthought or an additional extra, rather than a vital means of engaging with consumers. The speakers at Maximising Mobile emphasised that increased consumer usage of mobile devices combined with increased mobile ad spend means an effective mobile strategy is absolutely crucial for businesses navigating the digital space. By tuning out the noise and focusing on a few simple questions, the mobile jungle can begin to make sense.
 GfK Consumer Panel data, Q1 2014
Trends and forecasting
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