The State of Mobile and Digital Advertising in 2018

Susan Esparza  /  
April 5, 2018
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It is, at long last, the Year of Mobile. 

Again? Still?


As marketers, we like to dub things “the year of X”, to indicate that this is the year that some technology, philosophy, or marketing tactic comes into its own. During those years, it is no longer about leading the curve, but not being left behind.

Judging by headlines from the time, the year of mobile was 2008. Or maybe 2012. Or perhaps 2015.

There are reasons for all those milestones, of course. The first iPhone was introduced in 2007 and marketers began to awake to the potential of smartphones. 2012 marked an explosion in consumer adoption of smartphones, making them a more viable channel. 2015 gave us the first reports that mobile traffic was going to overtake desktop traffic. But even in those years, it was not imperative to treat mobile as a priority.

It’s 2018 now. Mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic. More than half the time a user spends interacting with digital media is done on a mobile device. The average customer journey touches multiple devices. Retailers with apps see more conversions on those apps than on their websites and 80 percent of shoppers convert on their smartphones. And crucially, Google has recently announced they are shifting to a mobile-first index.  

So when I say this is the year of mobile, I mean that this is the year when you have no other choice. Your marketing strategy must address mobile traffic.  It must include mobile advertising. It requires a website that welcomes mobile visitors and supports mobile indexing. And it means an attribution solution that’s flexible and robust enough to manage a customer profile that goes well beyond last-click.

Begin with Speed

In the US, the cellular networks are still slower than wifi speeds in most places. That means that data takes longer to download and customers are impatient. To combat that, Google and other search providers insist that mobile pages be fast, lean, and extremely well optimized. That includes advertising.

Optimize your advertising by choosing the smallest file size that doesn’t compromise your image quality and use a format that is more mobile friendly.

Cross-Device Tracking

Customers interact with your brand an estimated six to eight times before conversion and as far back as 2014, it was estimated that users switched devices up to 21 times a day. Put those two facts together and you’re facing a customer journey that spans three or four devices on average.

Your attribution and tracking solutions must account for that reality. Last-click (or last non-direct click) attribution is not just inadequate, it is actively lying to you about your media performance. Focusing on last click will leave you investing money in paid search or other click-based channels, at the expense of properly feeding upper funnel channels. You will end up missing out on broader reach to a larger amount of potential customers and losing money in the end.

Mobile First

The final thing to grasp about the state of mobile is that you can no longer design for desktop users and adapt for mobile.

Recent studies indicate that people check their phone 13 times an hour and 60% of the ads those users found influential were on mobile. Even when they didn’t complete their purchase on mobile, they discovered and decided on the purchase while still on their phones. But companies are still only spending 13% of their marketing budgets on mobile media and they’re doing so with ads not designed for mobile delivery.

Your opportunity right now is to design for mobile first. If you haven’t already given your team that directive, you’re falling behind.  Instead of serving a different experience to mobile users that your team hastily pushed as an afterthought, make that experience the default.

As marketers, we are challenged to balance fads against true sea changes. Mobile has proven to be that true change. Audiences have moved to smaller screens and the old rules no longer apply.  Commit to making this your true year of mobile. Your bottom line will thank you.

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