December 29, 2010, 2:18 PM

Mobile Messages

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Express studied the demographics of mobile phone users and knew its sweet spot lined up well with the kind of people using the devices, so it determined mobile display was worth some testing.

“We target to our customer demographic for both desktop and mobile, 18-26 years old,” Guzzo says. “We worked with the ad networks and went through the strategy with them, doing run-of-network campaigns within that demographic.”

Run of network means an ad will be displayed on all sites of a certain type that the ad network works with. In this case, Express’ ad networks, which it declines to name, ran the mobile ads on sites frequented by younger consumers.

Qwest Communications International Inc., an Internet, wireless and satellite TV service provider, decided to test mobile display ads beginning in October 2010 because of the success of its m-commerce site: 75,000 unique monthly visitors with many converting into subscribers or adding services to their existing account. So it wanted to acquire new customers through its mobile display ads as well as induce more existing customers to add new services.

It worked with iCrossing Inc., an online marketing firm that among other things helps retailers operate mobile ad campaigns. And iCrossing helped create the ads and elected to run them on the Millennial Media ad network. The ads were for Qwest’s Heavy Duty Internet package. Qwest and iCrossing kept things neat and simple.

“The ads take a consumer to a mobile landing page to learn more about the product: reconfirmation of the brand, the prices, more information and the ability to shop. And we’ve had a tremendous amount of engagement around people shopping and purchasing via their mobile devices,” says Keith Nyhouse, senior director of e-business at Qwest. “They can also call directly through a click-to-call number on the page or set up a call-back from a sales consultant.”

Qwest is paying per click, though the company declines to reveal the cost. However, it says it’s very happy with the results and that they compare favorably with those of online display ad campaigns.

“The click-through rate and the numbers of call-backs and orders are pretty high,” Nyhouse says. “Our click-through rate is double that of our desktop display campaigns and the conversion rate from those who call in or set up a call-back is about 10%, which is very high for our business.”

Qwest’s concise message asking consumers to learn more about the intriguingly named Heavy Duty Internet is simple, one of the tenets of mobile display that Forrester Research says all retailers should follow.

“The most effective ad programs in mobile are ones that consider three things: immediacy, simplicity and context,” says Parrish of Forrester. “Quickly loading graphics. Simple, bite-sized messages that grab the attention of the user and make them take action. Your message has to be at once simple to understand very quickly on a small screen and at the same time very compelling. It is more imperative in mobile than on the desktop given the size of the screen and the type of user you are targeting.”

Express worked with its ad networks to put together the creative; its approach was in line with Forrester’s thinking.

“It was a quick action, click there and be taken to the mobile site or to the web page in the app stores,” Guzzo says. “We really had been thinking about it from the end-user perspective for our customer. What creative would be most compelling in a very small amount of space? What would stand out in the new medium? For us it was really about a very strong call to action; Shop Express On-The-Go with the sweepstakes is a good mix for us, and we’ll continue to test as we move forward.”

Mobile display advertising holds a lot of promise as more consumers flock to smartphones and the way in which those consumers interact with the Internet changes. Smart retailers are looking at their web logs, analytics data and demographics now, seeing who is coming to their sites using which mobile devices. And as use of smartphones and mobile commerce continues to soar, mobile display ads may become a key to many merchants’ mobile marketing strategies. l

Mobile paid search: It’s happening, but where are the retailers?

Research firm IDC says mobile paid search is a $487 million market, and that Google Inc. accounts for 91.4% of it. But it’s difficult to find a retailer that is conducting a mobile paid search campaign. And when one is found, it doesn’t want to talk about it. So what gives?

“Any new medium has a barrier to adoption,” says Michael Boland, senior analyst and program director at BIA/Kelsey, a media research and consulting firm.

Being new means not knowing best practices or standard outcomes, so it’s something of an experiment. But mobile paid search ads have an additional hurdle, Boland says: Apple Inc. has successfully made the realm of the smartphone, all smartphones, centered on apps, not sites. An app-only view of the mobile world keeps consumers from using their browsers and the mobile web, the domain of search engines.

“Apple has created this environment where mobile is all about apps; Google wants people to enter the mobile experience through a mobile web browser. There’s a big debate over apps versus the mobile web,” Boland says.

But he adds as more mobile web site publishers, including retailers, adopt the new HTML5 Internet programming language, mobile sites will suddenly have the ability to provide a richer, stronger experience that rivals that of apps, bringing the mobile web on par with apps in the minds of consumers.

“With the advent of HTML5 the mobile web browser will become more functional and robust, we will see a lot more mobile web sites with user-friendly experiences with more content, we will see more users gravitate to the browser than to apps, and then search will become more popular because it is the front door for users of the mobile web,” Boland says.

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