On the scene: keeping afloat in a sea of mobile trends

sceneblogbwMobile advertising has hit an all-time high, and apps have exploded in the U.S. and globally. What should a business do to keep up? Web editor Emma Hall finds a few answers at a recent Innovation in Motion panel.

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By Emma Hall

As smartphones have become more affordable, mobile advertising has hit an all-time high. The possibilities for mobile marketing have a broad reach for many countries, where for some people a smartphone is their first access to the Internet. In the U.S., apps have become a part of daily life to many people. The average person uses 15 apps each month, yet the average lifespan of an app is only one month—barring the big kahunas like Facebook or weather apps. As of January/February 2011, smartphone users spent an average of 40 hours each month using apps.

This ballooning market means that changes are happening so quickly, it is hard for even the experts to keep up. Currently, an estimated $3 billion is being spent on mobile advertising annually, a number that is projected to reach $21 billion in the next few years. It is a lucrative market where currently one of two users takes some sort of action after viewing a mobile ad.

These issues were addressed at a recent Innovation in Motion, a monthly gathering in downtown Portland to discuss interactive marketing and online innovation.  Held on the first Thursday of each month at Haypenny Marketing, December’s meeting was “Mobile on the Move: 2012 Trends and Beyond.” Moderated by Haypenny Marketing’s Kevin Long, the panel was comprised of three heavyweights in the Portland mobile marketing world: Ben Leftwich, account executive at Anvil Media, Dave Shanley, founder and CTO at CrowdCompass, and Scott Townsend, marketing manager at Urban Airship.

As mobile marketing becomes more widespread and users are increasingly inundated with mobile ads, this number is bound to go down, Leftwich says. With so many potential consumers to be reached, there is a huge fight brewing between apps (Apple) and the mobile web (Google). Mobile search has increased more than 30 times since the release of the first iPhone. The top sites visited on the mobile web are currently:

1.    Search engine sites

2.    Social media (mostly Facebook)

3.    Retail sites (mostly Amazon and eBay)

So what’s next for mobile innovation? The panelists agreed that local search is becoming more and more important. They advised attendees to claim their Google Places page and Bing Local listing. “That’s the No. 1 thing you can do as a small business owner,” says Leftwich.

They also advised small-business owners to optimize websites for the mobile web. They recommended Google’s free service called Mobilize to test if your website shows up correctly on mobile phones. This is better than thinking it is necessary to jump on the bandwagon and create an app because “everyone else is doing it.”

As smartphone users become more savvy, they don’t want an app from every business that just promotes one company. In order to stay relevant, apps are going to have to become more useful, such as the Nike+ app that maps your runs, or Weber’s On the Grill app that provides recipes and techniques for barbequing. “Not everyone needs a native app,” says Townsend.

Emma Hall is the web editor for Oregon Business.

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