This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Given the ubiquity of smartphones, you’d expect companies to be falling all over themselves to reach their customers on these devices. But they’re not. As a result, many marketers are at risk of missing their mobile moment.
People are increasingly attached to their phones. According to a Bain & Company survey, people interact with their devices an average of 200 times per day. They use their phones for communication, information, entertainment and socializing. And, more and more, they’re consulting their phones whenever they’re in the market to buy a product or service.
Yet, while people consume 25% of their media on their phones, companies overall spend just 13% of their marketing budgets on mobile advertising. And much of that advertising isn’t suited to the medium. Mobile consumers have extremely short attention spans; advertisers have about three seconds or less to grab their interest. But most of the video advertising that appears on mobile devices is repurposed from spots produced for television, meaning it’s too long and too slow.
Why the disconnect? Companies tend to view mobile through the prism of digital media in general. Marketers are bringing into mobile the expectations, practices, rules and measurements they use in other forms of online advertising. But mobile, once seen as a subset of digital, should now be considered its own medium, one with enormous possibilities and new rules of engagement.
Some companies are allowing themselves to be misled by their own metrics. Conventional digital measurements typically attribute a buying action to the last place a consumer clicked. But that misses the increasingly nonlinear aspect of a customer’s “journey”—one that may range across multiple platforms, including mobile. While 94% of smartphone owners use their devices to search for a store, for example, that activity is captured by conventional metrics only when a consumer actually uses her phone to buy something. A Bain analysis shows that for every $100 of revenue attributed to mobile display ads by conventional metrics, mobile influenced $90 of additional spending on other devices.
No metric, however precise, can quite capture the qualitative aspect of mobile, what marketers refer to as a “magic” of the medium. Companies have an opportunity to engage with customers on their phones in ways that just aren’t possible with other media, even other digital media. Brands can create an intimate connection, reaching consumers at the precise instant when they are ready to shop—and to buy. Marketers like to call this narrow window, when a consumer is primed to make a decision, a micro-moment.
In an effort to capture more of these occasions, companies are conducting focused, scalable experiments in mobile marketing—with strong results. Red Lobster, for example, targeted mobile customers with advertising when those customers were near one of its restaurants during prime dinner hours, reaching potential guests at those micro-moments when they were most likely to stop in for a meal. In those markets where Red Lobster tested the mobile campaigns, mobile users who saw an ad for the restaurant on their devices were 31% more likely than those who didn’t see an ad to visit a restaurant that day and 17% more likely to do so the next day.
Angie’s Boomchickapop, a brand that features eight flavors of gluten-free, non-GMO bagged popcorn, developed a mobile-first strategy to reach its target shoppers—young, active females—during the micro-moments when they were mostly likely to want to munch. In six cities, Boomchickapop connected with consumers on their phones during weekends (prime days for popcorn consumption) when they were near a retail location. The company recorded a 23.4% lift in sales in the test markets and calculated a return on investment of $1.30 for every $1.00 is spent on the digital campaigns. Sales increased fastest in those cities where customers received a bigger share of advertising impressions on their phones.
Boomchickapop capitalized on the visceral power of mobile marketing. In its mobile-intensive digital campaign, the brand developed targeted creative materials, including a fast-moving, brightly colored video 15 seconds long, set to an up-tempo jingle.
Companies who are willing to look beyond their own conventional metrics, develop and test mobile-first campaigns, and embrace the magic of the medium have an opportunity to leap ahead of their competitors. Message to marketers: Now is the time to take the next step on your mobile journey. Your customers are already there—and they’re waiting for you to make the most of your mobile moment.
Laura Beaudin is a San Francisco-based partner at Bain & Company and leads the firm’s global marketing excellence work. John Grudnowski is the founder and CEO of digital agency FRWD, based in Minneapolis.