Mobile marketing is reaching adolescence in some sectors, the telephone and the tablet are pretty much established as firm anchors in the relationship between a brand and its customers. I’m comparing this to adolescence because we’re still in a huge growth spurt (+105% in 2013 according to eMarketer) and we’re all screaming en masse for our favourite pop stars (75% of this growth came from Facebook and Google). The performance of mobile ad campaigns is getting better and better – Rubicon and Inmobi claim click rates are 6 times higher than on the desktop – and the breadth of offers grows ever larger. So, what do you need to know, what are the concrete trends and who are the main players?


According to Forrester; 67% of US advertisers don’t understand programmatic buying on the internet enough or at all. With mobile playing a greater and greater role, those that do understand it in the context of the cookie will need to go back to the drawing board. Even if no dominant cookie-free solution has emerged yet to track users across different devices, various approaches are coming to the fore to allow consistent analysis of audience attributes. This is an essential piece of the puzzle in order to optimise content that reinforces advertising relevance.

Increasingly, advertisers are experimenting with a combination of these approaches with the aim to maximise the efficiency of audience targeting within the parameters dictated by technology, data availability and the evolution of consumer norms (particularly with respect to the management of transparency and “opt-out” preferences). Programmatic buying of mobile inventory is less advanced than on the web given the immaturity of the sector but the main players are starting to set out their pieces.

Dozens of mobile DSPs and Ad Networks exist already in the US and the UK, largely thanks to the technology made available by companies such as Appnexus and Iponweb. Meanwhile, some “traditional” DSPs like Turn or Rubicon (in partnership with InMobi) are starting to invest in the space. Data is at the heart of the debate and some companies like AdTheorent are betting on the predictive power of their buying algorithms to differentiate themselves from the pack. In Europe, the principal local DSPs like Byyd for example have invested heavily to focus on the precision of their buying in order to distance themselves from the ad network status.


It is one thing to know how to buy impressions but it’s a different challenge altogether to qualify the traffic accurately and understand which sources to prioritise. Mobile tracking is complicated by the lack of cookies – over 80% of internet use on the mobile is via Apps – but also by the lack of standards. With iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Sailfish OS, Symbian, UbuntuTouch OS and Tizen mobile developers have their hands full if they want to cater for all tastes.

Even if they want to focus on the 2 principal Operating Systems (iOS and Android) that cover 96.4% of the market (Source: IDC) they need to solve for many different variants. For example the disparity between versions of the same OS (15% of Android users still have the Gingerbread version which dates back to 2011) and the difference in consumer behaviour in each OS (iOS is only present on 11.7% of mobiles but accounts for 57% of sales (Source: 41st Parameter)). Recent acquisitions such as Adometry by Google and Ad-X by Criteo only serve to highlight the importance of this aspect but reliable solutions are rare and one should turn to companies like Kochava, Appsflyer or Adjust for an independent offer. The inclusion of an optimisation tool in such an offer would allow advertisers to automatically manage their mobile media buying whilst maintaining confidence in their return on investment.

Adaptive web design

Any mobile ad campaign is for nil if the site or App visited isn’t adapted to the user’s device. Responsive Web Design is de rigeur right now and means that brands are building their sites fluidly so that they adjust in size automatically according to the size of the screen in use. The principal advantage of this solution is that you build the site once and the rest takes care of itself. The downside is that you lose control of the layout of the screen and, therefore, the user experience. In a world where the slightest shift in pixels can have catastrophic results on conversion rates you need to be able to accompany the consumer swiftly and efficiently down the purchase tunnel. This is where Adaptive Web Design comes in; a site design method focused on the user with a selection of pre-set display templates according the size of the screen and the nature of the device. There are more variables to control at a macro level but it allows you to manage the user experience at a much more granular level. If you want to render a web site on any device so that it “Just works” then Responsive Design is probably more relevant to you as the development is simpler. However, if you want to zero in on user experience then you should choose Adaptive Web Design.


The mobile payments sector has made a lot of noise this summer since the announcement of Apple Pay, despite the fact that it hasn’t yet launched. A fluid and efficient payment system is the last link in the consumer value chain. There are 2 schools of mobile payments: on-line payment via m-commerce and “real world” payments using your device to validate the payment via a card reader, NFC chip or a camera for example. For a long time the choice of payment types in m-commerce was limited: Paypal, credit cards or iTunes for App Store purchases were pretty much all you had. Recently a myriad of virtual wallets has sprung up (27 different ones just in Germany!) with new offers from Amazon, by Visa, Masterpass by Mastercard and Weve by EE, Telefonica UK (O2) and Vodafone UK. This choice and these developments are important in a space where asking a user to type in their credit card number can halve conversion rates. In general conversion rates on the mobile device are 10-30% of those on the desktop and the payment step has much to answer for. More and more players, such as Braintree recently, are honing their payment experience to a “One Touch” environment to avoid diminishing conversion rates at the end of the purchase.

The mobile payments that are making the most noise right now are those that transform the device into a virtual card or temporary terminal. Square, the first company to market a smartphone card reader at scale recently raised $150m at a $6bn valuation but they have plenty of competition. iZettle is probably their closest European competition but NFC payment systems are in the spotlight at the moment thanks to the Apple Pay announcement despite the fact that both Samsung and Nokia equipped the S5 and Lumia with a NFC chip a couple of years ago, not to mention the dozen other handset manufacturers that have also done so. Another player in this sector, Powa Technologies with the PowaTag, are demonstrating that the QR code is not dead and still has its uses. This British company allows the user to order and pay for goods seen in a shop window or a catalogue by scanning a QR code. All of these payment solutions are particularly interesting in the context of a Mobile-to-Store strategy.


According to Apigee (The Mobile Mandate for Retail), 66% of American consumers are more likely to purchase something from a store with a useful mobile App and 81% of users found that their in-store purchase behaviour has changed since they acquired a smartphone. For merchants with a physical presence, a mobile strategy is of paramount importance as close to a third of customers cancel their purchase decision further to a product search on their mobile device within the store (Source: Tradedoubler).

Payment fluidity will certainly help convert the consumer but the multi-channel strategy must be well thought through in order to increase in-store footfall without cannibalising revenue and interfering with local pricing policies. iBeacons are becoming more widespread after a slow start; these small, in-store, electronic devices communicate with smartphones using low powered Bluetooth emissions and allow the merchant to register the presence of an online consumer in a physical store and push appropriate offers in a bid to increase their shopping basket.

There are many methods to bring a mobile consumer into the high street, for example: McDonald’s adapted their restaurant locator tool to take time of day into account and steer people to restaurants open after 11pm for the all-important post pub munchies – the campaign generated a 2:1 increase in ROI; Adidas increased their ROI by 680% by adding a store locator to their App and developing an innovative value-assignment model for mobile to in-store conversions; and Starbucks – the precursor in mobile-to-store marketing – placed their app at the heart of their customer relationship by integrating a mobile-to-store strategy based on promos and coupons with an in-store payment method using the customer’s smartphone – effectively bypassing the need to upgrade their POS systems.