Beyond the Smartphone: Be Mobile-Centric, Not Mobile-Only

It’s a cross-platform, cross-device world—and your marketing has to keep up.

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We’re living in a mobile-centric, mobile-first world. But while smartphones sit at the center of modern life for most people, they’re not the only technology that matters.

In fact, even as mobile has grown, consumers have found themselves with a larger and larger number of platforms to explore and engage with brands. The web remains a power player when it comes to customer engagement, and emerging technologies—like smart speakers, wearables, and more—just keep popping up.  That means that taking a mobile-only approach to understanding and reaching your audience isolates you from customers using desktops (and laptops), and keeps you from effectively leveraging  emerging platforms that could blossom into tomorrow’s next big thing.

Ultimately, your brand needs to be where your customers are—whether that’s mobile apps, the web, smart speakers, or some yet-to-be-dreamed-up technology that will spring up next year.

Mobile vs. desktop in today’s marketing landscape

For the most part, mobile vs. desktop is not about which customers you want to reach—it’s about when and how you want to reach them. Most users enjoy both mobile and desktop devices, sometimes even at the same time, but for different purposes. For example, while most time spent online is through mobile, many people return to their desktops to make online purchases. On the other hand, mobile has an obvious advantage with location-based marketing, while desktops, with their larger screens, allow you to present your brand’s voice with more visual complexity.

Desktop web marketing

“Cross-channel,” one of our very favorite terms here at Braze, means more than just all the different ways to reach users on mobile. It means reaching users everywhere they are, in the places where they’re most likely to be available to your outreach. And with the web still making up 30% of consumers’ online time, a full-spectrum cross-channel engagement strategy needs ways to directly speak to web visitors.

Thankfully, web messaging has come into its own over the past few years, allowing for smart, effective messaging to people whether or not they’re currently on your website. Web push notifications allow brands to send urgent, impactful messages to opted-in web visitors, no matter where they are on the web, providing an effective tool for driving re-engagement. In-browser messages, on the other hand, give marketers a flexible engagement channel for reaching people who are active on their site, supporting everything from simple notifications to rich, eye-catching messaging including everything from video to email capture forms. If you’re not using these channels, you could be missing out on a hotline to some of your most valuable users..

Emerging trends, the hottest new tech, and where these innovations might lead

No one can see the future—technology and consumer behaviors just evolve too fast. But while it’s difficult to know which of today’s emerging technologies are going to stand the test of time, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and wearables all offer customer engagement potential that’s too promising to ignore.

AI

Artificial intelligence has a been a “next big thing” for a while now—though actual use of AI has always lagged behind Hollywood’s apocalyptic visions. And maybe because of those pop culture depictions, a lot of consumers and marketers alike are a little uncomfortable about what the rise of this technology means for their future.

It’s already possible to leverage AI-powered functionality to ensure that the messages your brand sends arrived at the ideal time and in the ideal channel for each individual, thanks to the nuanced customer data collection that mobile and other platforms have made possible. And as time goes on, don’t be surprised to see AI influencing a bigger chunk of the customer/brand relationship.

VR

Virtual reality is another remains-to-be-seen emerging technology. It may turn out to be just a passing fad, but in the meantime, there are definitely fun marketing applications. Forbes describes VR as, “an artificial, computer-generated environment that uses high-end graphics, as well as audio and aural sensations, to make users feel as if they are in a real world where they can interact with – and sometimes manipulate – what’s around them.” VR is completely immersive and enables marketers to offer services like live streaming video, for example, to answer customer questions or demonstrate how to use products in a more vivid, more engaging way than ever before. These VR experiences invite users into the brand’s world in a way that’s been unprecedented since we departed brick-and-mortar life for the web. Brands like Tom’s and Lowe’s are already using VR, and HBO’s Game of Thrones put users “inside” the show to promote season four.

AR

Augmented reality adds digital elements to the real world (think Pokémon Go, one of the OG AR games for mobile). And while the average person may not yet be familiar with AR and what it means, the 2017 introduction of Apple’s ARKit for iOS has led a lot of brands to start exploring what this new platform could mean for their engagement efforts. We’ve already seen IKEA and Edmunds launch consumer-facing AR experiences on mobile, allowing their customers to better understand how a given couch or car, respectively, might fit into their home (or driveway). AR offers an array of opportunities–from adding snapchat-like filters to social media applications, to allowing users to scan real-world catalogs with apps for demos or animations of products. It’s also a highly accessible medium for many mid-sized companies looking to take their marketing out of the box. Don’t be surprised if it catches on.

Keep an open mind, but don’t try to be everywhere and everything all at once

There’s no way for marketers to prepare themselves for every eventuality—but staying on top of technology trends is still a smart move. That said, no matter how cool a trend might seem, if it’s not right for you, it’s not right for you. Mobile might be your best option and your best solution… but it probably shouldn’t be your only focus. With new technologies emerging all the time, becoming too overly pigeonholed in mobile could put you at a long-term disadvantaged. So leverage mobile for all its worth, but keep an ear ever tuned in to the changing winds of time.

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