Despite the significant uptick in consumer use of mobile technology, there’s still a big gap between those marketers who have effectively embraced mobile to provide an engaging user experience and those who have a long way to go. While experts have been predicting a big bump in the use of more sophisticated technology to deliver better mobile experiences through augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, and virtual reality (VR), for instance, those predictions have yet to be fully borne out. Instead, what we saw in 2017 was continued growth in the app marketplaces, the rapid advent of chatbots, and a growing focus on video (specifically live video), to engage audiences.
The Mobile Content Year in Review
Mobile is here to stay. “People spend more time consuming digital media on mobile devices than on a desktop and this trend will definitely continue,” according to the “App Download and Usage Statistics” report from Business of Apps. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 spend the greatest amount of time on mobile apps, and they have a wide range of apps to choose from. According to the report, the Android marketplace alone reached the 3 million mark in June 2017.
But while apps continue to proliferate, there was a new tool on the block in 2017: your voice. Amazon’s Alexa took the world by storm, followed quickly by Google Home. These virtual assistants and other artificial intelligence-powered technology have been taking center stage.
As consumers have become increasingly connected to their mobile phones and a virtually 24/7/365 mobile experience, brands and media outlets have been scrambling to launch bots that allow ready access to information through interactions that feel increasingly real. Facebook’s Messenger now boasts more than 100,000 chatbots, and others are rapidly working to catch up.
Consumers are increasingly looking for ease of use from their mobile experiences, according to a 2017 report from UserTesting that evaluated the mobile website experiences for eight of the top Fortune 100 Retailers: Best Buy, Costco, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Target, TJ Maxx, and Walmart. The study measured ease of use by having shoppers attempt to locate an item, review shipping information, and find a store location. Best Buy, The Home Depot, and Target topped the list; Costco and Walmart trailed behind.
Consumers are also looking for speed in their online shopping experience. Google has helped them find it through its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an open source code that mobile developers can use to help pages load quickly on a smartphone. When doing a search on mobile, an “AMP” in front of the search result sends a signal that the site will load quickly.
Increasingly, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how they choose to interact with brands, publishers, and others in the mobile environment. They will continue to be in charge in 2018 as brands and publishers compete for their attention.
A Look Ahead at Mobile Content
Peggy Anne Salz is founder of and chief analyst at MobileGroove and a top 30 mobile marketing influencer. She points to three key trends in mobile marketing for 2018: a user-centric approach, a focus on engagement versus acquisition, and the need to be truly multichannel.
There has been, says Salz, a “huge cycle of learning in the industry.” Content marketers now understand, she says, that “from here on out, it’s not mobile-centric; it’s user-centric.” There’s no single screen for engaging with consumers—there are two, three, four, or more. Increasingly, consumers are expecting their experiences to be coordinated and seamless across apps and devices. Content marketers are scrambling to be able to deliver that seamless experience.
Mobile marketers must now focus more on engagement than acquisition, Salz says. It’s not about building an audience; it’s about engaging that audience. Personalization, she says, is one important way to do that: “It’s not a nice thing to have; it’s a necessity.” Publishers, brands, and marketers need to take personalization seriously—and to the next level. “It used to be we thought personalization was just having your name in your email,” she says. “Now we have the technology that enables much deeper and richer personalization, segmentation, and targeting than ever before.”
The mobile experience is screen-centric. “It’s a visual medium,” says Salz, which makes mobile video a must. “We all need to take video very seriously because of the medium.”
Kristin Marquet agrees. She is the owner of three small businesses: Creative Development Agency, FemFounder?.co, and TheHauteRebel.com (the last two are publishing platforms). In 2018, says Marquet, livestreaming on social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube will “grow incredibly.” Major fashion brands have already perfected the use of livestreaming, she says, and even B2B brands and agencies are offering educational webinars and master classes in real time via Zoom or Facebook’s Live. According to Livestream, 80% of brand audiences prefer to watch live video than read a blog, while 82% prefer live video to social posts. Perhaps of most interest to marketers, according to its research: 45% of live video audiences would be willing to pay for on-demand video content.
The use of mobile is also driving another trend that will impact marketers: mobile search. According to Google, 20% of searches are now done by voice, and that number is expected to rise exponentially. And there’s another change on the mobile horizon. According to Gartner research, 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps: “Competition for consumers is high amid the millions of options offered in app stores, and apps are expensive to support. Compelling alternatives such as progressive web apps mean the branded app economy is poised for change.” And brands and marketers will continue to explore opportunities with chatbots and new technologies such as AR, VR, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
There is something that Salz and likely others would like to see less of in 2018: clickbait. “I would appreciate, please, no clickbait in the new year,” she says. Mobile continues to represent great opportunities for content marketers hoping to connect with consumers. But marketers risk turning those consumers off if they don’t deliver quality content. Going down the path of using clickbait to gain eyeballs is likely to backfire, she says. Marketers who can provide a seamless, visually engaging user experience not only on mobile, but across all channels, are likely to lead the pack in 2018 and beyond.