Last week a group of six 'm-commerce' experts took part in a round robin discussion in Manchester, England to determine the best ways forward for developers interested in creating a serious mobile web presence yet wanting to make money through the medium of mobile advertising at the same time.
Anyone who has been involved in this particular area of Internet growth will appreciate just what a serious challenge the mobile web presents to those who have not invested, in thought and deed as much as financially, in getting to grips with a realistic m-commerce marketing strategy.
Unless you are creative in your interactions with an increasingly savvy mobile consumer audience, unless you truly grasp the nature of the mobile web itself, the opportunity to see a healthy return on your development investment is going to pass you by.
Here's what the experts in Manchester had to say:
Paul Harris, Marketing Director of web hosting company UKFast reckons that there is a "huge potential pitfall waiting for those who choose to do what they have always done because this isn’t appropriate for mobile." What is needed is a new level of thought and a much cleverer approach. "Applying your tested formula to a new medium is the wrong way to go about it entirely" Harris said, adding "The use of a banner advert on a free app for example is intrusive – it completely misses the point and doesn’t work on mobile in my opinion."
Meanwhile, Matthew Ryan who is the Chief Technical Director at an iPhone applications development company called Web Comms stressed the importance of the bigger question of "how do you promote apps themselves?" As Ryan points out "traditionally through the web there are established techniques like pay-per-click and SEO, but what is there for mobile apps? It’s a new area full of opportunity." Deri Jones, CEO of Deri Jones, CEO of web applications testing company SciVisum, went as far as to call it "the end of advertising" and explained that "the small screens mean there’s nowhere to put advertisements." He has a good point, adding "throughout the history of the web, we’ve put more and more ads in different places. On mobile devices there’s no place for that. It’s definitely a challenge."
But the tougher the challenge, so often the more innovative and useful the responses to it. Certainly the popularity of smartphones has given consumers more control over the information that they want to receive which is proving challenging to advertisers, but innovations such as the Starbucks Card Mobile App which combines marketing messages with the advantages of being able to use the device as a payment token show that intelligent development of mobile commerce does not have to exclude the advertising altogether.
Andy Whitwood, founder of mobile design consultancy Mobiomic, warned developers not to get tunnel vision when it comes to iPhone apps. "At the minute it’s iPhone apps that businesses are asking for as opposed to web apps" he said, adding "They’re not considering that once they’ve developed the iPhone app, they need an android app, then Palm and something for the Blackberry and all of those need to be supported and updated." And the answer to this conundrum according to Whitwood? "The route they should have gone down is a web app or a mobile-friendly website that can be the same across all handsets." It makes sense when you think about it, companies should be looking to focus on creating tailored designs that are optimised for mobile use, across all mobile platforms, rather than a single vendor lock in.
One thing is for sure, in todays marketplace any half-hearted attempt to tick the mobile box is doomed to commercial failure. Mobile users are just too savvy to bother with half measures. "The last thing you should do is take your website and squeeze it down onto a mobile phone because people don’t interact in the same way on the mobile" Whitwood insisted, concluding "Users of mobile sites are more time pressured, they’re on the move, they want to find what they want and get off again. Navigation and content needs to be stripped down for a mobile user."