With the explosive growth of smartphone usage over the last couple of years, businesses have to be ready to embrace mobile marketing. Depending on who you talk to, you may be playing “catch up” already if you have not employed a mobile marketing strategy. While certain industries seem to be ahead of the digital curve, social media and advanced mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, are influencing how businesses connect with and market to their target audience. But what exactly is mobile marketing, and how much of an impact does Google have in shaping that definition? Given their market share in search and the success of the Android OS, I tend to lean toward Google having tremendous influence over how mobile marketing will be executed. Given the sway in which Google may affect mobile marketing, there is still the user experience businesses must consider. At the end of the day, you need to strike a balance between how the search engines and real people view your site, because they are very different. Regardless of the technical ramifications of Google’s views on mobile devices, if you do not like the look of your site from an Android or iPhone powered device, creating a mobile version of your site is essential. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the technical ramifications based on Google’s current smartphone ideology.
Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google recently posted an article on the Official Google Webmaster Blog about “making websites mobile friendly”. There is one point in particular mentioned in the blog I feel gives an indication where Google might be shaping what is considered “mobile marketing” from a technical perspective. He states in the article, “For now, we expect smartphones to handle desktop experience content so there is no real need for mobile-specific effort from webmasters.” My take on this explanation, Google sees smartphones as a PC you can put in your pocket. If Google doesn’t see a need to create mobile-specific content for visitors using these devices, can we make the assumption you do not need to create mobile-specific marketing for these devices? If you are at home using your PC or on the road using your smartphone to browse the internet, Google views the devices to connect to the internet the same. It is an interesting concept considering Google’s definition of the smartphone, which Far explains are “Phones with browsers that render normal desktop pages, at least to some extent. This category includes a diversity of devices, such Windows Phone 7, Blackberry devices, iPhones, Android phones, and also tablets and eBook readers.” However, the user experience side of the discussion can not be ignored and Far addresses this by additionally stating, “However, for many websites it may still make sense for the content to be formatted differently for smartphones, and the decision to do so should be based on how you can best serve your users.”
As with many online marketing initiatives, I believe mobile marketing will evolve over time. That evolution will be greatly influenced by the amount of smartphones in use. I believe at some point even the most simplified cell phones will be considered smartphones. If this is true and Google’s views on smartphones stays consistent (two big IF’s, but still possible) will there be any need for mobile-specific marketing? I believe the answer is yes, but the direction will be device focused versus the current broad concept of “mobile marketing”. For example, if iPhone users are more likely to view video ads and Android users are more likely to view ads embedded in apps, then your “device driven” marketing strategy should take these factors into consideration.