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Mobile and multiple devices are the secret to marketing’s new era

Facebook’s Matt Idema likes to look back at the golden age of television when he talks about how drastically marketing has changed in recent decades.

Key takeaways

  • Marketing has left “Leave it to Beaver” far behind. Consumers are no longer using one, one-way device.
  • Time on mobile is in addition to, not instead of, time consumers spend on the desktop Internet.
  • The mobile era means marketers need to be able to gather consumers’ signals and measure their own effectiveness across multiple devices.

Consumers had one device — a TV — that they watched a few hours a day, picking up advertising message along the way. Then came personal computers, the Internet and search engines, opening up new avenues for messages and better ways to understand which consumers were interested in what.

And now, of course, mobile is eating the world. But listening to Idema, who spoke Tuesday at the ClickZ Live conference in San Francisco, one thing became vividly clear: If mobile marks the latest television-like upheaval in communications, then we are still really in the black-and-white era.

Facebook’s Matt Idema talks about the mobile, multi-device era

We are still just beginning to grasp how mobile is changing consumer behavior; how it is changing marketing strategies; how it is changing the metrics that enterprises need to measure to understand whether those strategies are succeeding“Mobile really is this new mass media,” Idema, Facebook’s global head of ads marketing, told a ballroom full of marketers. “It’s different because you use it throughout the day. You’re probably using it throughout this presentation. All those small moments throughout the day add up to a lot of time spent.”

Indeed, Idema said, mobile users now spend nearly three hours a day on their mobile device, not far off television’s command of 4.5 hours of viewers’ time in its heyday. And that mobile-screen-time is in addition to the time consumers spend on the desktop Internet, he said, which hasn’t declined as mobile has risen.

“As recently as a couple of years ago, we spent as much time with PCs and the desktop Internet as we did with television several decades ago in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said. “That change in mass media consumption is happening again today with mobile.”

But this massive media shift is something quite different from the 60-year evolution of Uncle Miltie on TV to live news coverage to “All in the Family” to Jon Stewart. TV was a one-way channel driven by networks, advertisers and cable giants.

Mobile is both a receiver and a broadcast tool and consumers themselves are driving the revolution. In some ways, they are still figuring out how they want to use mobile, which means marketers have to continue to think about how they want to communicate with those consumers.

But you can bet that this evolution isn’t going to take 60 years. Think more like 60 seconds.

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Idema, who on Tuesday announced two new personalized advertising initiatives from Facebook, underscored how complicated the mobile landscape can be. The biggest percentage growth in mobile use is a result of increasing app use, he said. But while consumers are spending more time with apps, they use very few. In fact, they spend 75 percent of their time on just four apps, according to a Forrester report that Idema cited. And it turns out they tend to use apps to research and connect with friends, as Idema well knows.

Actual purchases and conversions mostly happen elsewhere. But a smartphone is often the first step, or an early step, in a consumer making that purchase.

“We primarily had one TV several decades ago, maybe two in the house if you were fortunate. You had a desktop computer at work. You had a desktop computer at home — so a maximum of two devices per person with the desktop Internet,” Idema said. “But with mobile, we have multiple devices and we use them throughout the day. The path to purchase has changed. You’re searching while you’re shopping in the store physically, on your phone. You’re doing research for an online purchase on your phone or on your tablet.”

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The mobile multi-device era means not only that marketers have to figure out what message to present on what device, but that they need to be able to track their strategies and understand consumer signals across devices.

It’s counterproductive, for instance, to send a consumer a message introducing your brand while she is using a mobile device in the morning — and then send the same message in the evening, when she fires up her laptop. Modern marketing needs to know that user is the same person.

The reality also calls for new ways to measure success. It turns out, mobile use has a tremendous effect on closing a sale, even though the purchase doesn’t take place on a mobile device. Deloitte Digital found that 28 percent of in-store purchases are influenced by mobile use. BloomReach’s own data indicates that for every $1 a consumer spends on a mobile device, they spend more than four times that on the desktop. And Indema said Facebook’s own experience shows that nearly one-third of desktop conversions can be attributed, on a last-click basis, to mobile.

“So we aren’t just researching when we’re on mobile,” he said. “We’re also clicking on ads on mobile devices in apps, but completing the purchase on another device.”

It’s exciting stuff. At least that’s one way to look at it. Idema told the crowd of marketers that it’s a great time to be a marketer, despite the ever-increasing challenges.

“The tools that we had available to us, even 30 years ago, were just not as sophisticated as they are now, so it’s certainly more interesting,” he said. “And the power of those tools is just so much more significant. The challenge there, is that you have to know just when to use which one.”

Photo of Matt Idema by Mike Cassidy. Photo of TV by Amydeanne, smartphone users by michael davis-burchat published under Creative Content license.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mkecassidy.