I had the privilege to moderate a first class Mobile ROI 2014 panel of mobile startups in Manhattan and came away with a number of key perspectives that will influence the mobile wave going forward. The panelists included executives from:
Action X — mobile customer acquisition and mobile retargeting
Medialets – next generation mobile and tablet advertising platform
Strike Ad – Demand side platform (DSP) dedicated to mobile.
EDealya – enables advertisers to target qualified mobile inventory at scale.
Audible – listen to your favorite books online
StartApp – mobile advertising platform focused on app downloads
PlaceIq – mobile audiences & analytics from location intelligence for digital advertising
Phluant – mobile advertising platform aggregating fragmented products
Somo Audience – Innovating touchscreen solutions for advertisers, publishers and consumers.
Mobile State of the State
We started by throwing out the requisite facts about mobile:
Mobile is growing like crazy, but advertisers are still wary:
- According to the ANA/MediaVest survey, 42 percent of the brands surveyed stated that understanding mobile metrics and nailing down ROI were their main concerns for 2013.
- In an eMarketer study from the CMO Council, 41 percent of marketers who invested in mobile advertising this year labeled the success level of their efforts either “inconsistent” or “not sure.”
- Although consumers are spending 32% of their digital time on mobile, only 10% of digital commerce is occurring there.
- Conversion rates from smartphone to be less than 33% of the rates from desktop and tablets.
- 28% of mobile searches resulted in a conversion (defined by store visit, call, or purchase). However, many of these conversions were conducted in non-digital ways (offline, in-person).
Why is Mobile Performance Lagging?
Here are the key takeaways. Some will not surprise you. Others might:
- Consumer behavior on mobile is not easily tracked. Attribution remains the #1 challenge.
- Users are using their phones to showroom in stores but then place purchases at the POS or home on desktop. Lots of reasons for this include:
- Many Ecommerce sites are not mobile optimized. The UX is terrible and drives users to seek offline or desktop purchasing processes
- Users are still wary about purchasing via mobile phones. The general gist was that users feel desktop is more secure. This seems to be a mobile web issue given the crazy growth of mobile app plays like Uber and Hotel Tonight where hundreds of millions are being transacted.
- We have the tech today to triangulate the experience. Between cookie data that is matched against data like Datalogix as well as credit card data, which is tied to email addresses, the panelists were confident that attribution was solvable. BUT
- The mindset of most retailers is not on consumers put on products. What sells is more important to them, than who buys. POS data and focus on it remains a challenge.
- A constant conversation on the panel. From EU scrutiny to watchdog consumer advocacy groups, the fear of total attribution is palpable. Deriving, in essence, a universal ID from the data is an anathema to security conscious groups. Its the elephant in the room.
- Tablet behavior feels like desktop but the user experience and tech is decidedly mobile. So what is tablet usage?
- Universal focus on Google. By far the player with the most potential impact on the market when you combine search (one of the #1 activities on mobile) + Google Play and the spread of Android
- Facebook. Their ecosystem enables a level of targeting as well as attribution that is second to none. As one brand in the room exclaimed — “We are doubling down on Facebook”.
- Video sites — mobile inventory is selling out as the mobile video experience is sufficient to create brand awareness. No one expects performance on video, but advertisers see it as an essential branding component of their advertising mix.
Mobile ROI in 2014?
No surprise that the issues in 2013 will remain issues in 2014. Don’t expect any crazy breakthroughs. Improvements will remain incremental until the attribution issue is resolved. Until then, mobile performance will be spotty in the eyes of the advertisers.