Thursday, August 1, 2013

Don't just think digital strategy, think mobile strategy

The writing is on the wall - as a marketer, it's time to ask what is your mobile strategy, and more specifically, what is your smartphone strategy. India recently became the world's third largest smartphone market and simultaneously, in Europe and USA, there are strong trends that the high-end smartphone market is maturing, with flat or even declining sales.

The future lies in the emerging digital markets of Asia and Africa, and in the fast growing budget phone/ tablet category which is driving adoption in these markets. The power centre is shifting to our markets, with more developers, marketers, manufacturers and service providers turning their attention here. 

Just a few years ago, a brand's digital strategy required a website, a social media presence, and of course, online advertising. Only a few brands felt a need for mobile presence, let alone a strategy. Some categories, notably news channels, e-commerce sites and financial brands moved early to set up mobile apps. Others adapted their WAP sites to different mobile browsers and languages. 

In the space of just a couple of years, things have changed. Last year, when smartphones crossed 10% in market penetration, marketers started paying attention to the need to have mobile apps. However, the market is largely at exactly that stage - that brands are developing apps. Not too many companies have started to define a dedicated mobile strategy which starts with examining the needs of their mobile audience and then chalks out the plan. And few companies have started to even think beyond phones to the next screen - which is tablets. Depending on the category, tablet strategy can be completely different from mobile strategy - think of Flipboard which for a long time stayed tablet specific. 

We believe that it is time for change. There will be a wave of first generation smartphone users across demographics and chances are, many of them will be your users. Further, many of them may have maximum, or even solus, net access on their smartphones. How will you connect with them? Here are some possibilities that you need to consider when you develop a smartphone strategy:

1. App discovery strategy : 
It is no longer enough to only have an app. How will you ensure that it is discovered by your user? And when you consider that first time users are still learning how to use their devices, this becomes a challenge. It may seem funny, but to an extent, mass media will still be required to promote app awareness, especially for mass target audiences. Targetting influencers also becomes important. 

2. Alliances with handset manufacturers and operators :
SMS and other value-added services of the feature phone era will gradually get replaced by newer, innovative alliances with manufacturers and operators. Smartphones are optimised for every type of rich content, so marketers need to figure out how they want to reach it out to consumers. Alliances can help discovery, and cross-subsidise your promotional costs

3. Being a second screen
Literally, the mobile and tablet have become the second screen, which is surfed while watching television. TV is by nature a passive medium, and mobile is active - however, TV viewing is not going away any time soon in India. One can see how synergies can be brought between the two screens. Of course, this is easier to do if you are a media channel with a presence on both, but there is no reason that brands cannot create a bridge between both mediums

4. What are the other mobile applications that you can capitalise on?
Through an understanding of mobile usage behaviour of your target audience, you can identify the mobile applications that you need to capitalise on (and your target may demonstrate a different behaviour on mobile vs. PC). Should you integrate Instagram or Vine into your strategy? Should you empower your mobile user to create content?  Is your audience engaged strongly with some other mobile app or platform (WhatsApp, BBM etc.) And if that is the case, how can you as a brand engage with them there?

Lots of questions, and the answers will emerge only when we start understanding our mobile users.