Mobile’s changed everything, but people still can’t figure out how to sell on it

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There are not many times in anyone’s life when things run exactly as planned. New ways of doing things pop up all the time; be it a social media site like Pinterest or a subculture that needs understanding and tapping into. But sometimes the playing field changes completely and people struggle to keep up.

You’d think I was talking about social media; but I’m not (well, not really). I’m talking about mobile. Mobile has fundamentally changed the way in which we interact with the internet.

Never has a medium been so personal — arguably the closest anything has come be being as personal is the written word. Banners, adverts, radio and TV don’t come close. They are external media that we can switch off and walk away from. When was the last time you switched off your phone? (Unless you have a BlackBerry — that was tough for me to say, being a BB user)

In an IBM May 2012 report published worldwide and entitled “The state of marketing 2012” the vast majority of the people agreed that the fragmentation of the channels and device choices made it more and more difficult for them to keep up; second to that was then the collaboration and influence of the customer (read as “Web 2.0″).

Customers are all jumping on to mobile and in an attempt to keep up, the people trying to sell stuff to them are having to do the same without really understanding usage patterns, demographics or the true power of the devices themselves. Couple to this the fact that there are so many vastly different devices with different operating systems and within that different versions of operating systems and you have a quandary of epic proportions.

There are of course many different ways that companies are able to approach the mobile landscape. The following eMarketer graphic shows how American organisations are attacking the mobile arena, with the vast majority choosing to either develop a custom application or a mobile web version of their site.

One of the interesting things about this graphic is the growth that the mobile landscape is going to achieve within the next 12 months. Another point to note is the large portion of respondents who have indicated that they are not planning to embark in any mobile ads.

This stat could prove quite interesting when we unpack social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) who are all planning on rolling out a monetization plan for the mobile versions of their platforms. If the trend is to not engage in mobile ads, then how are these platforms going to take advantage of the growing trend of users to engage with their platforms through mobile?

I would personally urge all those looking at moving their brand into the mobile world to first pursue a mobile version of their website before they plunge headlong in to the long and difficult road of developing a custom app. There are many reasons for this, but the primarily, they are:

1. Cost
Mobile applications are expensive to build and maintain. Each update that needs to be done is a time-consuming process and needs to be approved by the app stores.

2. Deployment time
Mobile applications tale a long time to deploy. This is based on actual development time as well as approval time from the relevant app store.

3. Multiple versions
Each app store (Apple, Google Play, BlackBerry World) needs a separately developed application, which is expensive in terms of both time and money.

If the intrinsic needs of the application — such as if it needs to use features inherently imbedded in the mobile device (camera, gps, etc.) are there, then an application is the way to go.

If the need is simply to render information from a database and does not need to use any of the mobile devices features (gps, camera) then a mobile website is the way to go.

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