Too often, mobile industry executives will say that the marketing potential of mobile reminds them of the early Internet days.
Next, these mobile executives will break out boilerplate Internet metrics to measure marketing success in the mobile space. They will apply Internet-centric marketing metrics such as page views, unique visitors, time spent on a site, cost-per-thousand impressions, registered users, and even click-through of banner ads.
In reality, mobile is not the next Internet. Mobile is its own animal, with new usage behavior, new business opportunities and new marketing potential.
To measure progress of mobile campaigns, mobile-specific measurement tools need to be applied. Standard Internet metrics do not apply to the mobile environment.
As mobile startups eye the market’s potential, they often envisions themselves as becoming the Google of the mobile space.
Perhaps there is another $10 billion per year in advertising revenue out there to be had in the mobile space?
Not likely, but it’s no wonder every mobile startup dreams of becoming the next Google of mobile.
More likely, there will be smaller, agile companies that create fantastic experiences and measurable ROI on mobile platforms.
But mobile marketing spending will be an extension of advertising campaigns, not a displacement of all Internet spending.
Let’s look at that state of some hot mobile properties, specifically the mobile Web, the browser, commerce and search.
The mobile browser war is mostly academic.
Yes, old mobile browsers are bad and new mobile browsers are good.
Newer browsers such as the Opera Mini, Firefox mobile and Skyfire are better at handling complex Internet tasks and add desktop-like features to the mix, but the killer mobile app will not be the browser itself.
A desktop-like browser on a mobile device essentially treats the mobile device like a magnifying glass for the Internet. Users don’t want tiny view of a huge Web page. They want a mobile-specific experience.
The best mobile experiences are more contextual to the phone itself, and include smoother integration of a small page layout, SMS, GPS and easily installed applications.
So, measuring page hits and stickiness of Web sites are really not useful metrics.
Instead, measuring data usage, numbers of videos streamed to mobile, or content shared to mobile, would be more useful to measuring mobile Internet engagement.
Search in mobile is not as simple as building a clean search site with the most relevant search results.
The search issue in mobile revolves around a simple user experience. This means less text entry and less scrolling than the desktop experience.
A more compelling mobile search experience will come from many forms of content discovery – social networks engagement, location-based-service applications and simply sending and receiving links via SMS or email.
Fundamentally finding, learning, and discovering content will involve much more than an extremely tiny mobile browser.
Discovery of content will be custom-tailored to the mobile user’s device functionality, interface, applications and preferences.
Discovery of content could come from a friend’s message, from an application, an email, an RSS feed or from a Twitter micro blog.
Traditional portals’ searches will still come in handy on mobile, certainly, but not as the primary behavior of the mobile user.
A better approach to measuring mobile search hits is to tally the activity engaged in mobile data applications, not just the number of times a search button is clicked.
Standalone search marketing in mobile is not a viable way to measure search engagement in mobile.
Marketers will need to find new ways to calculate how their brands are being discovered and shared in the context of mobile discovery.
Internet and mobile: Opposite or alike?
Mobile users want to interact, search and download valuable and targeted content from the Internet, but not in the context of a desktop experience.
The best mobile experiences will come from developers that create a simple, clean, Internet-rich, mobile-specific experience without trying to cram the desktop into a mobile phone.
Recently, the Internet has become rich with video. Web video has grown in popularity due to improved CDN technologies and broadband penetration.
There are approximately 15 billion videos on the Internet today. Video can quickly and easily be translated to mobile with powerful backend transcoding and streaming tools.
In the context of mobile, a powerful experience leverages the native tools of the device such as the device media player.
Mobile devices are increasingly more media-friendly and data networks are always improving.
Even with spotty network coverage, 2G data networks and a fragmented device market, video can easily be streamed to the majority of mobile users. Seventy-five percent of U.S. users can view mobile video, according to a recent study.
When measuring mobile Web engagement, it may be best to measure impressions as videos streamed rather than HTML pages viewed.
Mobile video could become more relevant than static Web pages, given that mobile Web browsing is clunky and mobile video streaming of rich Web video is much more appropriate in a mobile environment.
As mobile executives hype up the potential of mobile, they often envision growing their advertising revenue to challenge Google’s massive advertising revenue.
But savvy businesses such as MySpace have recognized that they cannot simply hope to take a share of advertising dollars – they should seek other revenue models as well.
Certainly, advertising may be part of MySpace’s revenue model, assuming that it finds a way to smoothly integrate advertising into the platform without interfering with very personal communication between users.
In addition, MySpace needs to look for ways to sell premium digital content such as music, and perhaps even create premium services that satisfy its power users.
Brand impressions and conversion
Mobile is not just another platform for ecommerce.
Mobile, at least for now, has been less about conversions or payments, and more about brand impressions and brand awareness.
The big barriers to ecommerce adoption on the Internet were trust and instant gratification.
With destination sites such as Amazon and eBay, users learned to search through millions of items to find what they want (selection) and click to buy (convenience).
The ecommerce model won’t directly apply to mobile.
Again, the best experiences will cater specifically to the mobile experience.
For example, a user could stream a mobile video from a social network to their phone and then click to buy the song.
Buying digital media such as ringtones and wallpaper may make sense in the mobile context.
So, instead of measuring purchases made from mobile, a combination of brand impressions, videos streamed and digital purchases will be more appropriate.
Market to mobile users, not to mobile Internet users
When considering the 3.4 billion mobile phone users worldwide and their potential as a marketing target, don’t estimate their customer potential in terms of click-throughs on banner ads, unique users on a WAP site and growth of registered community members.
Instead, measure mobile-specific impressions such as amount of data downloaded, number of video impressions and purchase intent after viewing a branded video, for example.
Mobility is inherently engaging and personal. Mobile engagement with brands will certainly drive sales, but not necessarily directly from the device.
Mobile is the new frontier, but it is more than the Internet in your pocket. It’s a highly personalized, highly integrated interactive communication device that can access rich Internet content.
The potential is limitless. But to measure and prove ROI of mobile marketing models, we will need to adopt more appropriate mobile marketing metrics.
Success will be measured in terms of creating great experiences, driving wireless data usage and increasing viral spread of branded content.