SMBs Take on Mobile to Increase Sales

by Net Future Institute on May 8, 2012

Mobile impacts all businesses but it may affect them in different ways depending on size.

While many of the major brands have well-developed apps and some are beginning to embrace the mobile Web, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) may be charting a somewhat different course.

With mobile media spending projected by Strategy Analytics to hit almost $12 billion this year (compared to mobile consumer spending of $138 billion), there’s somewhat of a wide range in how marketers allocate budgets vs. how consumers are behaving with mobile.

There is also a gap between national vs. local advertising revenue, with national closing out the year at about $1.6 billion compared to local at $211 million, according to PQ Media. The disparity in dollars spent can be rationalized by the fact that brands focus on national buys, such as through mobile video and search while smaller businesses focus more locally.

This leaves the question of what SMBs are doing with mobile if not investing in national advertising or other areas that attract the larger national brands.

We looked to Borrell Associates, the research firm that focuses on the SMB marketplace and found some insights and early indicators of where that market may be heading compared to their larger counterparts.

For mobile campaigns by SMBs, the number one tactic, as you might expect, is SMS with almost half (46%) of the businesses using it. In the context of global research from Chetan Sharma Consulting that came out earlier this week, non-messaging services now account for more than half of all mobile data revenue, showing that texting no longer dominates data revenue as it did seemingly forever.

But while texting is king for SMBs, rich media, not so much.

Only five percent of them use MMS, the same percentage that use NFC (Near Field Communication) or location-based tactics, which could translate into simple ads on Foursquare.

Video also has potential as a growth usage, since only eight percent currently use it.

More surprising is that the number two mobile tactic after texting is using 2D barcodes, with 41 percent saying they use them. Of the leading brands and agencies using 2D codes, a percentage of them don’t even lead to a mobile optimized experience, which begs the question of where the SMB codes are taking their customers, but that’s for another day.

With consumers projected to download 66 billion mobile apps annually within four years, which is more than double the number downloaded last year says Juniper Research, many of those will not be coming from SMBs.

As a mobile tactic, only one in five SMBs use apps, which trails the number using mobile websites (38%) and mobile advertising (26%).

The SMBs in the research are defined as non-traditional accounts that have contacted for advertising in various media and these early findings are from a series of three different market studies.

One of the early indicators of the research is that SMBs may be starting to differentiate social marketing programs as a branding tool to reach new customers while mobile is being used as a direct response platform, according to Borrell Associates’ Senior Researcher Greg Harmon, who is leading the study.

He found that to measure the success of social marketing programs, the key metric was getting new customers, listed as very important by 83 percent of SMBs. Meanwhile, the most intensive success metric for mobile media programs was increased sales volume, to 78 percent of the SMBs.

Key success measurements for both social and mobile media programs was creating visits to websites, with 84 percent of those using social marketing programs saying it was very or somewhat important, and 91 percent of those using mobile media programs saying it was.

As context, the top success metrics for success in a recent mobile study by The Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications, were behavioral metrics (ad interaction, click through, etc.) and conversion (sales, email registration, coupon download).

We’ll be watching over time to see if the mobile tactics of the national brands and SMBs sync or go their separate ways.



Chuck Martin is author of The Third Screen; Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile, CEO of Mobile Future Institute and Director of the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications and a highly sought after mobile marketing speaker.


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