Mobile marketing: not as simple as it first seems

Mobile marketing isn't as simple as it first seems. In this post we explore the reasons why - and how to get started in a 'mobile-first' world.

Among the many startling mobile statistics published online, perhaps the most amazing is that the global number of mobile phone subscriptions (7.4 billion) worldwide has now surpassed the world’s population (7.3 billion) and, somehow, continues to rise.

It will come as little surprise, however, to anyone in digital marketing that mobile Internet usage is now considerably higher than desktop. According to Comscore, mobile surpassed desktop early in 2014 and now accounts for more than 60% of global Internet usage.

Does this mean you should focus your marketing resources on optimising for mobile users?

Certainly, your customers will be using mobile Internet and apps, so there is a strong reason to ensure your website, emails and other content are mobile-friendly. But should we all be thinking ‘mobile first’?

The simple answer remains: it depends.

If your business relies on an e-commerce site for sales, you certainly need to be optimising your site and simplifying the ‘mobile user experience as much as possible’. You should also face the reality, though, that conversion rates on mobile devices are much lower than on desktop or tablet.

According to Monetate (see chart) desktop converts 2.78% of sales opportunities, while smartphones convert just 0.8% (with iPhones slightly better at 0.85%). In other words, if a customer arrives at your site via desktop, they are more than three times more likely to purchase than if they come via a mobile device.


Even if your business isn’t reliant on e-commerce, there are still reasons for caution. For example, do you know when your customers are online?

Research from Comscore (below) suggests that mobile is our device of choice in the morning, while desktop dominates the daytime – working hours – and tablets come into their own during the night. This means that if your customers are getting exposed to your advertising and content during the daytime, there is a high chance of them being on a PC, not mobile.

Of course, you need to be present on all channels, but how you invest your time, how you format your content and when you promote your services could all be impacted by the time of day and the screen-size of the recipients.

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Another niggly issue with mobile is that a lot of mobile Internet usage happens in apps. In fact, the majority of our mobile usage occurs via apps (89%) with a small minority happening on the mobile Internet (11%). See the chart below, published by Nielsen and shared by Smart Insights.

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This would suggest that any investment in a mobile-friendly website and content will only get you so far in today’s mobile world. If you want to tap into the largest flow of traffic, you may need an app.

Of course, apps aren’t the expensive proposition they were five years ago, but for small businesses, the cost of creating and maintaining one needs to be weighed against the value it will bring. These calculations won’t always match up.

I hope this post comes across as being positive about mobile marketing. It’s unquestionably extremely important for businesses of all sizes – but it’s worth considering the points above before diving in completely.

To explore this topic further I hosted free webinar: Mobile Marketing on a Shoestring, featuring mobile marketing expert Franco Beschizza and authorised local expert for Constant Contact, Kathy Ennis

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  1. josh Reply

    surpassing world population of only 7.3 million would indeed be surprising 🙂 might have typo in opening.

    1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

      Thanks. Well spotted. Fixed!