You're behind the curve if you haven't been working on a mobile strategy. Consider this: the mobile sector is a US$ 850 billion global market and will comprise 62% of the total telecom market in 2010 (IDC study, Worldwide Mobile Trends: Steady Subscriber Growth, the Proliferation of Applications, and the Mobile Internet ). Or this: more than one half of internet users worldwide used a mobile device for part of their shopping activities in December 2009 (Mobile Shopping Takes Hold Worldwide - eMarketer).

But before you circle the strategy and tech wagons, step back and think about how you really need to approach this channel. Need help? Read on.

The Wrong Way to a Mobile Strategy

Here's how you shouldn't approach a mobile strategy: You look around at what your competitors are doing and read about the current stats for mobile usage and you say "we need one of those [mobile strategy] too".

Wrong. Yes, mobile is just another channel, but you need an integrated view across all your channels. The problem is, most companies put the mobile channel in a silo because they really don't know much about it.

This is the experience of Greg Dowling, Semphonic's newest VP. He is leading the consulting firm's mobile strategy and measurement practice, so he knows a little bit about mobile strategy. Dowling (who by the way is holding a breakfast seminar series on this very topic February 23rd in Washington DC and February 25th in New York) told us that companies need to determine their mobile readiness and figure out if a mobile channel is suitable to their current offering.

He says companies "need to get SMART with mobile". What does that mean exactly? Follow along:

S is for Strategy

Every good plan starts with a strategy and the decision to add a mobile channel -- or not -- should be considered carefully. Unfortunately many organizations are still starting with the technical decision and not with the business requirements.

Do you know the technograhics of your consumers? Do you know user types, geographic distribution, what they are doing on your website? If you already have good measurement of your current website and visitors/customers, you are well on your way to creating your mobile strategy.

It's important to understand that some products and offerings don't lend themselves well to a mobile environment (one example is lead generation websites). Mobile is used the most by consumers in the media, commerce and social markets.

We see this clearly in a report from Motorola that surveyed retail shoppers usage of mobile during the Christmas holiday season: 

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eMarketer -- Mobile Shopping Takes Hold Worldwide

and in a recent report by The Nielsen Company:

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Mobile Audience Mirrors Total Internet as Search, Email, Social Networking Drive Traffic

What are your objectives?

Why do you want a mobile channel? Are you trying to increase revenues? Decrease costs? Or do you want to increase brand awareness or cut calls to your call center.

What is your Level of Commitment?

To add a mobile channel you have to be 100% committed Dowling says. Testing the waters won't be good enough. He told us that in 2010 there isn't a ton of commitment by agencies and brands. According to Equation Research, the breakdown for 2010 plans for mobile marketing is as follows:

  • 10% have mobile as a line item
  • 60% are experimenting with mobile
  • 30% have no mobile plans at all

What's interesting though is that mobile is the fastest, largest and most readily adopted channel, says Dowling -- 3-1 over Internet users. That means 70% of people have mobile devices compared to 20-26% that have the internet.

According to recent research from the IDC, the mobile sector is a US$ 850 billion global market with smartphones emerging as a key driver.

The mobile sector is in transition from its prior focus on subscriber growth. The expanding demographics of smartphones and new operating systems, the arrival of mobile broadband, and the explosive growth of applications and content are combining to reshape the landscape of mobile telecommunications," said Courtney Munroe, group vice president of Worldwide Telecommunications at IDC.

Can you define reasonable ROI?

Don't try to get overly specific and detailed when defining ROI. Dowling says a rough order of magnitude will work. You just need to know if it's worth your time.

M is for Measure

Determining what you need to measure once you have your mobile website or mobile application up and running should be an obvious next step. You need to clearly define your KPIs and they should be aligned with your business objectives.

You need to think about measurement enablement options. How do you measure?

The reality is that mobile is hard to measure. Dowling says there are so many nuances to the space, that measurement can be challenging. There are three primary areas to consider:

  1. Platform:
    Traditional website measurement is done with the help of javascript. But javascript is not present/not enabled in many mobile devices, so traditional tagging won't work. You could use cookies but device limitations can prevent cached data coming from your server to ever reach the user's mobile device.
  2. Carrier Limitations:
    Many carriers give mobile users a subscriber ID (usually a hash of their account number). This allows them to marry up the requests that get passed around and is the preferred method to capture unique information. Unfortunately some carriers strip the HTTP header or limit the size of the request.
  3. Mobile Applications:
    Mobile apps live on the mobile device, so you are essentially trying to track behavior that takes place on the application on the device; you want to understand how the application is being used. In this case, measurement becomes a component of development -- you need to add your measurement tactics prior to developing the application. This means that more QA time is required -- and more rigor -- to insure you are measuring properly. Also user identification can be an issue. You can give each user a unique id to track them, but how do you tie that together with that users activity across your other channels?

What is likely to happen, is that you will have a hybrid measurement methodology. Omniture, WebTrends and Google Analytics are examples of web analytics vendors that offer multiple options for measuring mobile usage including leveraging server side scripting or device side tracking (with or without javascript). But there are also a number of niche mobile measurement vendors out there like Flurry and Localytics who offer an additional level of tracking that traditional vendors can't provide.

A is for Analysis

The analysis you need to do for mobile is not your traditional web analytics. You will do basic metrics like handset, manufacturer, browser, device, geography. But you will also have to do intelligent correlation across your other channels.

You need to understand how users come using other channels, like your website. What you are trying to understand is the entire user experience across all channels. It is important to find out how usage differs between other online channels: traditional web, mobile website, mobile application and then integrate this usage with what you know about usage in your offline channels: call centers, other internet marketing, etc..

R is for Reporting

So you have measured, and you have analyzed. Now you need to make that information available in obvious data visualizations and interactions. You also have to create the right reports with just the right amount of information for the right people.

Note that the higher up you go, the less detail they need to know. For example, most senior executives only need to know 3-5 key metrics.

And automate your reports, so you aren't spending a lot time pulling the information together.

T is for Tactics

Once you know what you need to know, start thinking about optimizing tactics. Generate actionable insights and ensure you are providing the right message to the right person at the right time.

Try to understand how offline conversions are affected by mobile, optimize the channel. And where you can, use your fixed website to drive people to the mobile channel.

Dowling also says to leverage experience design and always be testing.

Putting it all Together

According to research firm Gartner, mobile users will spend US$ 6.2 billion in mobile application stores this year, with expected advertising revenue of US$ 0.6 billion worldwide. Now that's only mobile applications. How many more of your customers will visit your website via their mobile device, expecting a good user experience.

The question still comes back to whether or not you need a mobile strategy. You need to understand your market and their needs and expectations. One you have established that mobile is indeed a channel you need to have and you are prepared to do what is required to develop it, then you are on your way.