October 20, 2010, 4:32 PM

Consumers may be mobile but many companies still have catching up to do, study says

57% of firms do not have or are in early stages of a mobile strategy.

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Despite the massive adoption by consumers of mobile phones, and more recently sophisticated phones that can access the Internet, only about one third of firms in a recent survey have had a mobile strategy in place for more than a year, a new study from Forrester Research Inc. finds.

57% of the 203 consumer product strategy, e-business and marketing professionals surveyed say their organizations either do not have or are just beginning to develop a mobile strategy. 10% have had a fully operational mobile strategy for less than a year, Forrester analyst, Thomas Husson writes in his report, “How Mature Is Your Mobile Strategy?”

The study also found that one-third of companies don’t have a single executive in charge of leading and developing their mobile consumer strategy, and 46% say one or fewer employees work full time for their company’s mobile efforts.

Media, travel and financial services companies are the most likely to have mature mobile strategies, Forrester finds. “Travel companies see clear benefits in delivering 24/7 customer service to their most valuable customers—the frequent travelers who want the benefits of value-added mobile services,” Husson writes.

Those companies may be leaders because mobile is most often seen as a way to increase customer engagement, satisfaction and loyalty—not generate direct sales, Forrester says. 52% of firms list increasing customer engagement as their No. 1 mobile goal. 26% cite generating direct revenue as an objective, while 22% say mobile is way to generate indirect revenue—for example, by driving traffic or sales to other channels, such as stores or web sites.

Most companies plan to invest more in mobile in the next year, and some plan to invest significantly more. 70% of firms will increase their mobile budget in 2011, with one in four companies doubling or tripling their mobile budget, the study finds.

That’s important because mobile is growing. Facebook’s mobile monthly audience, for example, grew from 65 million users worldwide in September 2009 to 150 million in July 2010. And 16% of Twitter users now begin using Twitter via a mobile device, versus 5% in April 2010. And during the same time period, the number of mobile Twitter users rose by 62%.

Companies investing more is a positive sign, Forrester says. The flipside, however, is that many don’t have a clear plan with what to do with the investment because mobile is placed on the back burner. 71% said there’s no clear plan for mobile because it is not a top priority.

“While firms are making an effort to establish a collaborative and qualitative vision for mobile in the future, the majority of them fail to quantify precise objectives, allocate costs and measure the overall success of their mobile business,” Husson writes.

Other findings among those with mobile strategies include:

  • 59% believe that they successfully evangelize the importance of mobile within and across their organization.
  • 30% say a key objective of their mobile initiative is to appear innovative.
  • 19% share mobile responsibility between several managers and 8% say it’s shared between several business units with no clear leader.
  • 10% put a president or division head in charge of mobile, 8% the chief marketing officer and 5% the chief information or chief technology officer.
  • 3% establish a separate business unit for mobile. This doubles among companies that have a mobile strategy in place.
  • 42% developed their app or site internally.
  • 19% view mobile mostly as a standalone initiative, 45% say there’s a shared mobile vision across their organization and 44% have a task force to determine mobile objectives.

Traffic is the main measure of mobile success, the report notes. 74% of companies with mobile initiatives say traffic to an app or site is how they measure success, while 21% cite the value of mobile transactions—the least popular answer beyond other or none.

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