Mobile Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016 - BuildFire
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Mobile Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

Few things have had a greater impact on today’s consumers than smartphones and mobile devices. Shoppers use their smartphones at every step of the buying process, from researching products, checking out reviews, and even “showrooming”, using their devices to compare prices and features while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

Businesses have been slowly adapting to the mobile trend: In 2015, mobile ad spending accounted for less than half of all digital advertising dollars, below current mobile usage habits. That is expected to change in 2016, however. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending will grow by 41 percent this year, to about 60 percent of all digital marketing dollars.

If you’re planning your digital ad budget for 2016, mobile should play a major part. Not sure how to get the most bang for your buck? Here are the mobile marketing trends to watch in 2016.

Mobile Marketing Automation Is Front and Center

Mobile marketing automation, or MMA, made its way into the mainstream marketing lexicon in 2014, although it builds on a tried and true marketing concept. MMA leverages mobile behavior to drive engagement throughout the entire mobile strategy lifecycle—both inside and outside your mobile app.

The average smartphone user checks his device over 200 times per day; MMA helps businesses take advantage of these interactions to build meaningful relationships with their customers. Here’s how a retailer might use MMA to engage customers:

A customer abandons a sweater placed in her shopping cart while using the company’s mobile app. Using MMA, the retailer sends the user a customized message such as, “Jennifer, your sweater is on sale today! Buy it now!” The notification is deep linked to the shopping cart and optimized for easy checkout.

Abandoned shopping cart notifications are just one way that marketers are using MMA to increase the relatively low 10 percent conversion rates for mobile shoppers. Mark Ghermezian, co-founder and CEO of Appboy, a CRM for mobile marketers, says that businesses will increasingly collect and use mobile data to deliver personalized, timely, and relevant messages to their users to drive engagement and build loyal, long-term customers.

Video Ads Increasingly Go Mobile

Mobile video advertising was the fastest growing format over the first three quarters of 2015, increasing 190 percent, according to a recent report. The report also showed that mobile video ads were 40 percent more effective with user retention. It’s no surprise that businesses are expected to spend over $4 billion on mobile video ads by 2018, a 73 percent increase over 2013 spend; Business Insider suggests that mobile video advertising will grow five times faster than desktop.

Google is incorporating video ads in its mobile search results, and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are getting into the mobile video ad space, as well. Facebook is opening up its in-feed video spots to apps in its Audience Network, so customers signed into Facebook will see these spots in other apps, too. Expect to see other social media networks expanding their video ads, especially those in the under-15-second sweet spots, in 2016 and beyond.

Mobile Search Will Display More Than Just Pages

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Videos are already included in mobile search results, and search engines are also experimenting with video ads in the mobile results display, as well. But that’s not all—Google’s new app discovery mechanism means that relevant Android and iOS apps may potentially be displayed, based on app indexing, changing the face of the SERP.

Sherice Jacobs, writing at the Kissmetrics blog, predicts that mobile search will undergo seismic shifts, as UI and UX experts analyze reams of data about how users interact with their devices. She sees an entirely new mobile search experience, in which results are optimized and fine-tuned with personalized displays for each individual user. In other words, a mobile search for “down jacket,” for example, will return product recommendations in the customer’s preferred color, size, and price range, with retailer suggestions based on proximity, promotions, and even loyalty rewards programs.

Vertical Video Is the New Big Thing

If you’re marketing to millennials, you already know that Snapchat is the place to be. And Snapchat is urging its marketers and advertisers to shoot ads vertically, perhaps recognizing the popularity of video apps Meerkat and Periscope, which also stream vertically.

Vertical videos are remarkably successful: Snapchat says vertical video ads are viewed to the end nine times more often than those shot horizontally. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that vertical is the default orientation for most mobile device users.

These statistics aren’t limited to Snapchat ads, either. Major brands such as Audi, AT&T, NBC, and Target have all experimented with vertical video ads, as well. Audi reported an 80 percent improvement in ad completion with their recent LeMans vertical video ad campaign.

Brandon Houston of Switch Video predicts that 2016 will be the year of vertical video, in both advertising and long-form video production, as analytics demonstrate just how much better this format performs over its horizontal counterpart.

Blurring the Lines Between Mobile Apps, eCommerce and Social Media

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It was only a matter of time before a savvy entrepreneur recognized the potential marketing synergy between mobile, social, and shopping. “Social shopping” is nothing new, actually—Facebook has been wooing marketers with the scale of its targeting data and click-to-buy buttons for over a year. However, as other social platforms get in on the act, the mobile/social/shopping experience has gotten sleeker, smoother, and far more attractive.

Pinterest and Instagram, in particular, have succeeded at blurring the lines, devising the right combination of browsing and buying that drives e-commerce. Instagram, a Facebook-owned property, combines the social giant’s granular data with a highly visual platform to create a virtual shopping channel for forward-thinking brands.

Pinterest partnered with Shopify to enable small and medium-sized retailers to sell their wares on Pinterest using the “Buyable Pins” feature. Pinterest is inherently slanted toward end-of-funnel customers who are ready to buy, since the platform is driven by images of products, making it an attractive “social shopping” choice.

In 2016, expect to see more brands find creative ways to blend the unique features of mobile apps, social media marketing, and e-commerce sites to deliver an integrated customer experience.

The Growth of the Integrated Lifestyle App

As 2016 rolls along, expect to see more apps that combine several unique yet interrelated functions into one integrated “lifestyle” app. What do we mean by “lifestyle” apps? Imagine a newly expectant mother: In the past, she might have downloaded a pregnancy countdown app, an app that shows how her baby is developing week by week, a pregnancy nutrition and diet app, and maybe even a fitness app for expectant mothers.

Now, however, she’ll look for an integrated lifestyle app that combines all of these features in one easy place—and maybe even gives her weather alerts when she’s ready to go for a walk or a run.

In addition, marketers expect mobile apps to become more of a social signifier about lifestyle choices. As brands continue to align themselves with cultural and social values, consumers will download their apps to make a social statement: “I care about _______, so I use brand X’s app.” Marketers who are attuned to their customers’ preferences and goals will find even greater opportunities to connect using mobile apps.

Expect More Emphasis on Mobile Pay

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Mobile payments were a hot topic at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas last fall—and for good reason. Digital marketing research firm eMarketer predicts that mobile payment transactions will grow a whopping 210 percent in 2016 to more than $27 billion, up from $8.7 billion last year. The statistics tell the story: Over 20 percent of millennials and 40 percent of those in high-income households reported using mobile payments at least once a week, a number that’s sure to grow as more businesses incorporate mobile payment options.

Of course, vendors will have to do more than offer mobile payment technology to entice customers to actually use it; they will have to show a clear value proposition to encourage adoption. Starbucks is a model of success in this regard—about 20 percent of their US in-store transactions take place through their mobile app. Starbucks incentivizes mobile pay by offering special discounts and loyalty rewards to customers who buy through their mobile app.

Brands who incorporate mobile pay will have a decided advantage with the growing mobile-first audience. Research firm Forrester predicts mobile transactions will reach $142 billion by 2019, so brands already on the mobile payment express will have ready access to the mobile gravy train.

Less Mobile Optimization, More Mobile Apps

This year may well be the year of the mobile app, as more businesses—including small and medium-sized enterprises—recognize the advantages mobile apps have over a mobile website. Today’s consumers demand instant access to their favorite brands’ products and services, access that mobile websites simply cannot provide.

Marketers will increasingly recognize and capitalize on the targeting and personalization opportunities inherent in mobile apps. Push notifications, social integration, and mobile marketing automation will change the marketing landscape for businesses using mobile apps.

In addition, mobile apps will provide a wealth of data marketers can use to provide a highly customized experience far surpassing that of a mobile website, responsive to consumer demands for relevance and personalization.

Advances in app indexing will make it easier than ever for mobile apps to be discovered by their target audience, making apps even more attractive to mobile marketers.

Native Advertising Becomes an Even More Successful Format

Mobile ad blocking reached a crescendo in 2015, responsible in part, perhaps, for the growth in native advertising, a format nearly immune to most mobile ad blocking extensions. Fortunately, native advertising is also a highly effective format for mobile marketing. Consider these statistics:

  • A LinkedIn study showed that 70 percent of consumers preferred to learn about products through content rather than advertising.
  • Native ads have a click-through rate between 15 and 45 times higher than display ads.
  • Customers who view a native ad are 3.6 times more likely to do a branded search than those who view a display ad.
  • Mobile native ads have CTRs more than double those of their desktop counterparts.

Data from Business Insider shows that spending on native advertising will reach $14 billion in 2016 and exceed $21 billion by 2018, with the majority spent on in-feed social native advertising, a format very amenable to mobile.

According to Lauren Fisher from eMarketer, in-feed mobile native ads are “an ideal choice to stay engaged with an audience that is increasingly moving to these smaller screens.” Fisher goes on to say that advertisers spent 2015 retrofitting their native ads to fit mobile pipelines with the end result being “native ads targeted to a consumer’s unique demographic, psychographic, and technological profile — and which are so highly relevant that they won’t feel like ads at all.”

More SMS Text Mobile Marketing

Mobile SMS text marketing is a cost-effective option for businesses of all sizes. Its open rate of 95 percent dwarfs that of mobile email campaigns, which averages 10 to 15 percent, and SMS text marketing has a high ROI compared to other mobile marketing strategies.

Trumpia, a leader in mass SMS marketing, was able to increase foot traffic to local Jamba Juice franchises in Bakersfield, California, by 10 percent using an SMS bulk text campaign. The campaign also generated over 1,000 new opt-in contacts over a two-month period, and significantly boosted store revenue over the same period. Expect more SMEs to embrace SMS text in their mobile marketing strategy for 2016 as an inexpensive option to organically drive awareness and engagement.

Mobile use has eclipsed its desktop counterpart and now dominates digital media consumption; today’s consumers are mobile device driven throughout the entire buying journey. That’s why businesses of all sizes are re-evaluating their marketing budgets with an increased focus on reaching and engaging their mobile customers in new and innovative ways.

These marketing trends, from mobile marketing automation to “social shopping” and an increased reliance on native mobile apps to drive engagement represent some of the best ideas in capitalizing on consumers’ mobile behavior. Take a look at these innovative ideas and see how your business can profit from them in the year ahead.


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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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