For a term so ingrained in the modern marketing machine, “mobile marketing” is surprisingly ambiguous. Whether it’s for tablets, devices, apps or even text messaging, that overarching term is causing an unacceptable trade-off between actionable insights and simplicity. It unjustly self-validates a confined perspective, hurting the prospect of using new technology to serve a customer base. By thinking about it in a new way, we can unlock the true potential between consumers and a future of devices being everywhere.

It’s time for a paradigm shift, and it’s time to leave mobile marketing in the past. 
What really got me thinking about this idea was a talk given by Punchbowl’s CEO Matt Douglas at the Xconomy Mobile Madness Forum last week. Titled “Rant: I Hate ‘Mobile,’” Matt’s 5 minute speech whimsically highlighted a critical problem facing companies around mobile marketing – there’s no real definition for that term.

mobile marketing
“Mobile” is broken. It’s time to think differently.

When we refer to “mobile marketing,” what’s really being encompassed are all the independent device use-cases for individuals on their desktops, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices from smart watches to smart cars. Trying to bucket all of these intricacies detracts from the fact that every device has a unique user interface, display and technological capability. As the efficacy and consumability of a digital experience can vary by all of these factors, they need to be tracked independently for conversion optimization and user experience. What works in one device and technology channel won’t necessarily work for another, spurring the need for robust QA departments and mobile testing capabilities.

The reality is that every device will be used differently and should be regarded as unique.
In the same way that a given stock price doesn’t say much about a company’s trajectory, “mobile” tells you very little about the critical and distinct customer experiences, which makes targeted optimization impossible. According to the esteemed marketer Philip Kotler, “If markets are to be segmented and cultivated, they must meet certain requirements. Segments must be Measurable, Substantial, Accessible, Differentiable, and Actionable.” This is hardly the case if your data is combining apples and oranges or smartphones and tablets– when you ineffectively segment your data, it loses its value.

A balancing act is needed.
On one hand, we have countless combinations of users and devices and on the other there’s two buckets- mobile and non-mobile. While it’s impossible to report on every combination, steering away from the two-bucket approach enables us to segment by screen size, loading speed, user interfaces and more. It’s a subtle shift from the status quo with huge implication- it’s segmenting that will allow insights into the singular digital experiences of customers. Through custom reporting, the grouped experiences can be experimented with and optimized over time.

It’s no longer just “mobile marketing.”
As we witness mobile technology grow over time, business investments need to go beyond the linear approach of carbon-copying a site with a mobile skin or worse, forcing users to navigate a desktop version on a hand-sized screen. Successful companies in the next few years will not only have “mobile-ready” sites, but they will go deeper and form content that shifts based on device and user characteristics. Valuable components to a digital experience will no longer depend on a specific device, and there will no longer be friction when going from a tablet to a PC to a smartphone.

Being the bane of conversion marketing, any friction between devices can lead to lost opportunities, poor analytics and even affect SEO and mobile SEO. For these very reasons, experiences that are seamless by design will win and become the gold-standard. You need only look at mobile-first companies like Uber to see how properly integrated experiences on desktops, tablets and devices set-up a company for success.

What it really comes down to is the realization that customers and channels are unique and must be treated as such. “Mobile marketing” flat out just won’t cut it any more than doing “social media” as a means of blasting the same content across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. In that spirit, let’s just do our customers and ourselves a favor and steer away from the “mobile marketing” buzzword, replacing it with specific language that offers the same richness mobile does. In doing so, we’ll have better analytics, actionable intelligence and happier customers.

What do you look for in a mobile experience? Share your thoughts in the comments down below.

Originally posted on Verndale’s Marketing Blog.

Photo via Flickr