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The time has come for going mobile

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The statistics I heard in late February at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Annual Leadership Meeting seemed astonishing: Mobile accounts for 23% of media consumption time, but just 1% of marketers' spending. How could there be such a spending disconnect in a world where customers and prospects are reachable anywhere, anytime thanks to mobile technology? Some five months later, it appears the time has come when we'll start to see that gap shrink dramatically, if it hasn't already. For starters, the tablet market continues to grow more competitive, with Microsoft's Surface and Google's Nexus 7 joining the mix. The addition of these new devices, both announced last month, should push prices for the category as a whole down and make tablets even more ubiquitous. Meanwhile, publishers are rolling out new ad formats to take advantage of the proliferation of mobile devices. Case in point: AOL's Premium Formats for Mobile, announced in late June. Two recently released reports also indicate mobile marketing is poised to take off. IBM Corp. surveyed more than 350 marketers from a variety of industries for its “State of Marketing 2012” report. It found that 34% plan to deliver mobile ads in less than 12 months—the highest adoption rate for a new marketing tactic in the five years that IBM has conducted the study. “Overall, 46% of respondents are currently using mobile websites, followed by 45% [using] mobile applications, up from 40% and 44%, respectively, since last year,” according to IBM. A separate report from Forrester Research showed tech marketers have good cause for stepping up their mobile initiatives. According to Forrester's “Tech Marketing Navigator” survey for the first quarter, 38% of enterprise C-suite executives in the U.S. use smartphones to access vendor websites, while 30% do so using tablets. Forrester also found that “36% of enterprise business executives are pushing their IT organizations to prioritize investment into mobile platform support, for employees as well as to support engagement with customers and partners.” A few weeks after the IAB meeting, I asked Mark Wilson, then senior VP-corporate and field marketing at Sybase and recently named CMO of Avaya Inc., for his take on the disconnect between mobile content consumption and marketer spending. “When you hear a statistic like that, you can just smell the opportunity,” Wilson said. “As everybody's moving to a post-PC world where they're consuming content on mobile devices anytime, anywhere, it represents a huge opportunity for marketers; and I think we'll see that shift in marketing spend being pushed onto mobile devices. It's going to happen in terms of display ads. It's going to happen across SMS, MMS, QR codes. It will happen across a whole mix of mobile marketing tactics as marketers look to engage that mobile user.” I posed the same question to BtoB's LinkedIn Group. The general consensus: It's time to go mobile. John Obrecht is editor of BtoB and Media Business, and can be reached at jobrecht@crain.com.
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