April 17, 2013

Q&A with Shrikant Latkar, VP of marketing, InMobi

Posted by: in North America

In researching our latest trend report, “13 Mobile Trends for 2013 and Beyond,” we reached out to InMobi, which focuses on mobile-first technology platforms and is the largest independent mobile ad network. Over email, VP of marketing Shrikant Latkar, who also oversees market research, explained what some of InMobi’s research has found about mobile usage worldwide, how context-driven mobile advertising will get more sophisticated, and how marketers’ approach to mobile needs to evolve.

A really broad question: What’s different now than a year ago in the mobile arena? For instance, how do you see consumers evolving in their use of mobile? How are marketers and their approach to mobile ads evolving?  

The power of mobile is not so much about what it offers but what it enables. For example, the unique characteristic of mobile today (as opposed to one or two years ago) is its ability to make other media clickable. In other words, mobile’s role in a cross-media campaign is its new strength and power. Mobile is becoming a larger part of the media diet for consumers as it becomes more integrated into daily activities than ever before. An example is consumer use of mobile while shopping has skyrocketed over the past year, with 66 percent of mobile Web users globally having made a purchase on their device.

In the United States, 70 percent of mobile Web users are accessing media through their devices while they watch TV, and there are powerful multiplier effects when we look at advertising effectiveness across different screens. … Mobile users are constantly accessing media on their devices, even while consuming content through other channels; thus a strong mobile presence is a vital part of an integrated campaign.

How do these changes offer new opportunities for advertisers around the world?  

Mobile has been called the “glue,” the “connective tissue”—and now the center of a cross-media strategy. Consumers around the world are spending increasing amounts of time on mobile. Our ongoing global media consumption research reveals how, in many markets, mobile users are now spending more time on their mobile devices than any other medium. Across the board, about a quarter of time spent consuming media takes place on mobile. In developed markets, this time is supplementing and in some cases replacing time spent with other channels.

Generally speaking, we find users are more willing to engage with ads when they are in a leisurely state of mind; we are increasingly seeing PCs becoming very work-oriented, functional devices, while mobile devices are full-fledged life assistants, productivity tools and entertainment companions, offering a wider variety of contexts for targeting users.

In emerging markets, which completely bypassed the PC Internet revolution, mobile is their first connected device, and many customer segments rely heavily upon this channel for their livelihood. Mobile is offering ways to reach new types of consumer segments in many markets.

Mobile also offers new ways to advertise to consumers; as technologies improve, we anticipate mobile advertising will become more attractive to end users through localized mobile vouchers, social reward vouchers and context-related targeting.

How do you see context-driven advertising on mobile getting more sophisticated? What kinds of context does technology now allow brands to consider?  

To date, the main legacy of mobile advertising is a perception of intrusive spam for many consumers, because the personalization technologies are only just emerging and embedding on the personal device. However, tailored, personalized content will switch this perception to one where the mobile becomes a personal concierge, delivering advice, vouchers, special offers and user-centric information directly.

Geo- and hyper-local mobile advertising, retargeting, audience targeting, day-parting are all feasible today. Predictive technologies on mobile will soon allow advertisers to get much more sophisticated in how they target ads to users, by taking location, context, time and traditional demographic and Web usage patterns all into account. By understanding the user’s frame of mind and what they want to do next, mobile will allow advertisers to target messages based on a much deeper understanding of these decisions. For example, by targeting restaurant coupons on Friday at 6 p.m. to someone who always eats out on Friday nights and always leaves work at 5:45.

How can brands use data to really personalize their communications on mobile?

The first step for brands is to build their own audience profile. Using analytics, brands can understand the types of users and use this data to retarget specific audience profiles within this ecosystem. If you take Foursquare as an example, its features enable consumers to receive not only promotional offers from outlets nearby at a specific time but also “explore” the nearby area and find other businesses or places of interest through geo-localization.

Personalized geo-targeted campaigns offer a number of benefits to advertisers. This includes enabling brands to reach a location-specific audience in a specified region or city. Target audiences are selected with greater precision, and wasted impressions are reduced.

What are the key differences between regions in how accepting consumers are of ads being integrated into their mobile experience?  

To better understand changing media consumption usage and behaviors across the world, we released the “Mobile Media Consumption Report Wave 2,” a study of over 15,000 mobile users in 14 markets across all continents during Mobile World Congress in February. We found that 59 percent of global mobile Web users are now as comfortable with mobile advertising as they are with TV or online advertising.

Comfort with mobile ads was very high across the board; users globally are becoming savvy about these ads and how they can help them. Mobile Web users already recognize the impact mobile ads have on their purchase decisions—globally we found that they ranked mobile ads on par with TV and online in this regard. That’s because when mobile ads are done right, they offer great value to the user. Unique location- and context-targeting capabilities make ads highly relevant. Rich multimedia ads with game and video content make the experience fun for the user. And unique calls to action, such as store locators and click-to-call, reduce the number of steps users must conduct to achieve their end goal.

Some of your research has pointed to the mobile device as an important shopping tool, for purchase and also research, etc. Can you speak to this trend?

Consumers are deeply engaging with brands on mobile throughout all segments of the purchase process and we can demonstrate the impact of mobile across all these stages, from awareness down to actual conversion and post-purchase communication. Our global mobile media consumption research shows how consumers globally already recognize the impact mobile has on awareness (42 percent), consideration (26 percent), decision-making (23 percent) and purchases (14 percent).

Thus, campaigns can focus on driving results throughout every stage in the purchase funnel based on their specific goals. For example, performance-focused advertisers who wish to generate quick leads may focus on different aspects of the funnel than a local business seeking to generate awareness or a large brand seeking to drive conversions.

We know mobile devices are often used as a “second screen,” but do they seem to be evolving into screens for long-form content as well?

The always-on, always-there nature of mobile phones means that consumers always have access to them, and they are always using them to consume media. For example, while commuting, mobile video is very popular. Even at home it ends up being easier for the consumer to turn on their device than walk over to a PC and wait for it to boot up, which is why we see very high levels of engagement with mobile when respondents are in bed (82 percent)—this portability is making long-form content on mobile phones easy and popular.

Do you think branded apps are starting to get lost in the pileup of apps that many consumers have on their phones?

Yes! With over 130 app stores worldwide, there are billions off apps, making app discoverability extremely difficult. Marketers need to rethink their approach and create more integrated campaigns.

Do you see any key trends in mobile that marketers have been slow to respond to?

While we have seen a significant surge in the adoption of mobile advertising, marketers remain slow in delivering fully integrated marketing campaigns. When considering marketing campaign budgets, mobile should not be seen as its own silo but as a way of complementing other marketing channels.

Although mobile devices are rising in popularity, brands and advertisers still think of mobile advertising as an afterthought. This is slowly changing as brands and advertisers integrate mobile marketing and a tablet strategy into their marketing plans. Both devices should be treated differently; the tablet and mobile user experience and engagement differ. Tablets are more laid-back, provide a greater immersive experience, whereas mobile is often transactional, with pieces of information.

Looking ahead a year or so, how do you see advertising become better integrated into mobile? What are some new ideas or approaches that you think we’ll see rolling out?

Brands are unlocking the potential of mobile advertising by pursuing rich media and creating more engaging, immersive experiences on mobile. The personal nature of smartphones and the multimedia content and features of rich media and HTML5 will allow marketers to engage viewers at scale in an unparalleled manner.

As media consumption activities increasingly shift to mobile, a strong mobile presence is essential to engage consumers. In the U.S. and U.K., for example, mobile is the No. 1 media access channel for consumers with data connections, who now represent the majority in both these markets. In many markets around the world, mobile is the only method of Internet access for the majority of the population.

Not only are consumers using mobile devices throughout the day, they are increasingly using them while shopping; mobile has become a central part of the shopping process. Showrooming is already widespread in many markets. However, Deloitte and eMarketer data demonstrates the increased likelihood of shoppers who use smartphones while in physical stores to also make a purchase in the store. Retailers with a strong mobile presence are ultimately much better equipped to convert customers on the go as well as in-store, and those who proactively facilitate in-store mobile experiences can actually use these new consumer shopping habits to their advantage. This is just one more example of how mobile will play an increasingly central role in marketing.

We also expect to see an increase in cohesive cross-channel campaigns across mobile devices and other types of media. It’s no longer enough to try and deliver the same message or ad already running on TV on mobile; marketers are creating campaigns which are more customized and relevant to each device type. Even when we look at different mobile devices, for example, shopping behavior can vary quite a bit between smartphones and tablets.

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