What is driving growth for mobile web in the US? What’s holding it up?

There are three factors both driving and holding up mobile web growth in the US:

  1. Consumer adoption of smartphones
  2. Consumer adoption of data plans with these phones
  3. Brands and marketers offering compelling content and services that deliver the value and meet the needs of the consumer

Research has shown, both commercial and academic that they type of device someone uses is a contributing factor to their adoption of mobile services beyond voice.  If you think about the three basic classes of phone, the featured phone, smartphone and dedicated terminal (e.g. iTouch, PSP) the capabilities and use models of these different mediums lend themselves to different adoption paths.  And, within the smartphone category, the data is showing the iPhone outstrips all other phones in mobile web and data adoption, with over 85% of iPhone users using the mobile web, compared to 65% for other smartphones and 20% for featured/basic phones.   Today, smartphones only account for 10~12% of the overall market and iPhones are less than 2%. These numbers will surely grow in the next twelve months; however, even if they double to 20%, with the iPhone taking the lion share of this growth, you still have 80% of the market with legacy devices.

Now, just because someone has a smartphone does not mean they have a data plan or a data plan, such as an unlimited plan, that lends itself to data usage.  Many people still do not turn on their data plan and or have metered or ad hoc plan.

Finally, we as marketers need to do a better job in providing value via the mobile channel.  Many brands like The Weather Channel, Coca-Cola, E! Online, Mandee are doing a great job, however, there is a long way to go. Marketers need to catch up.  In fact, unlike the internet where the technology, consumer adoption and marketer adoption matured in parallel, with mobile the technology and consumer adoption is here.  It is marketers that are behind.  In fact, certain demographic segments, like the Hispanic Youth are using mobile as their only and/or primary source of information and engagement.

Which brands are the most innovative and which spend the most on mobile marketing? Who isn’t interested, who should be?

The Weather Channel, E! Online, most of the Auto manufacturers, Money Mailer, Victoria’s Secret and others are doing a very good job on offering innovated and consumer engaging experiences. 

As for “spend” this is a good question and I’m not sure if the data is really available. Certainly, P&G continues to make great strides in the mobile media purchases, but other companies are also spending in mobile but the numbers vary greatly.  I believe many marketers are still in an investment mode.

Those service older demographics are not interested and the unaware and uninitiated are not interested in mobile; and/or they are aware but they’re overwhelmed by all the possibility that mobile has to offer and they’re not sure where to start.  As for who should be interested, “everyone.”  The mobile phone is becoming the primary communication channel for most people, just think 34.5% of the U.S. population report having shut off their landline phone or they simply don’t use it.   In my office, we rarely use our landline phone, we’d rather use our mobile or skype.   Per the comment above, all marketers must learn to leverage the many paths of mobile for engagement their consumer. The technology will be the same across over stage of the customer lifecycle; however, the call-to-action, engagement plans, and relationship building strategies and tactics will change across industries, consumer profiles and stages within the customer life cycle.

What are they doing – mobile web site; banner ads; text campaigns etc?

A recent 2009 Forrester study shows the following:

What are the best – and worst – mobile sites in the US? What makes them stand out?

Best sites:

http://mobile.victoriassecret.com
http://Weatherchannel.com
http://Eonline.mobi

They all are very clean, have linearly designs and a focus on the content.  See the attached best and worst doc, I like this write-up.

What is the most exciting thing about mobile?

The most exciting thing about mobile is the possibility, there is literally any type of direct and interactive engagement that can be done with it.  You just have to get creative, and in some instance, yes, have patience.    What I find specially appealing about mobile is the through that the placement of a mobile call to action, maybe one even as simply as text DMEF to 20222 to donate $5 to the Direct Marketing Education foundation can turn any traditional, outdoor, new or social media channel into a direct marketing channel for rich and engaging interaction.

Where should people go for more information – reference sites, books etc?

There are numerous resource.   One can reference books, like the two I recently co-authored, Mobile Internet for Dummies and Mobile Web All-in-one for dummies.  I can’t go a day without readying mobile marketer, and mobithinking.com is also a very good resource.    The Mobile Marketing Association also provides a significant amount of content.

One of the biggest challenges though is the offering of an end-to-end curriculum of mobile that is prepared in such as way tat it is easy for practitioners at all levels to consumer and get value.  I’ll be working on just such a project this summer.

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