Organisations recognise that a growing majority of customers interact via mobile rather than desktop. Most are aware of the need to adopt a new way of tracking these mobile customers, using single sign on solutions that exploit either social media or telephone number identities. Few, however, have made the essential mind set move from the desktop digital marketing model to accommodate the now dominant Generation Y that has a fundamentally different way of interacting.

The mobile is the way this generation interacts with the world: friends, family and brands. They only go online via mobile. And they don’t watch traditional television. So why are CMOs still investing in improving the desktop experience and online advertising? Why are they still dithering between Responsive Design and Mobile Apps? The model has changed fundamentally and organisations need to stop playing with mobile and create a mobile first strategy that truly reflects and supports the behaviour of the increasingly influential Generation Y.

Changed Behaviour
Marketers increasingly recognise the importance of mobile platforms and the need to track a customer journey across multiple channels. Yet, while the industry has spent far too long debating how best to extend the traditional browser experience to the mobile platform, the consumer – most notably the Generation Y consumer – has moved on, radically.

With the number of smart phones sold in 2013 exceeding one billion and some 260 million tablets expected to be sold in 2014¹, growing numbers of organisations are waking up to the fact that the vast majority (upwards of 70% in some cases) of web site traffic is coming from mobile devices.

But this shift from desktop to mobile model is about more than device for the younger generation that now dominates the global population. Representing 50% of the population across the Commonwealth, the Generation Y mobile revolution is not just a different way of accessing the Internet; it is a fundamentally different way of thinking, acting and interacting.

Generation Y doesn’t think of it as a mobile phone: it is the way they interact with the world. From pictures to social media, apps to texting, the phone has become an essential extension of every Generation Yer.

Wasted Investment
So what does this mean for the digital marketing strategy? Essentially, it means that most CMOs are not yet investing in the right areas. Why continue to build even more desktop functionality and  invest in online advertising when this Generation rarely uses a desktop? Or television advertising when they only watch Netflix?

Mobile is not a natural advertising platform – and as yet, brands have not embarked on the mobile advertising deluge that dominates the desktop experience. So just how will a brand engage with this generation? How should marketing realign the budget to drive a direct relationship?

Organisations need to stop dabbling at the edges of mobile strategies, with debates about the merit of Responsive Design or apps. Such considerations are still desktop centric, with a mobile add-on. Today’s reality is that mobile is the dominant platform – and that is what organisations need to understand.

What is the best way to engage with viewers, users, followers, fans and readers who have a fundamentally different way of interacting with brands and with each other?  It means changing attitude and thinking about Mobile first.

New Thinking
Identification is clearly a concern for digital marketers who have relied on cookies to support consumer interaction for the past 15 years. A fragmented device landscape, with different tracking issues across Android, IOS and Windows phones, as well as desktops, creates the need for new and better ways to track users. But rather than getting hung up on the challenges, this is fairly straightforward using the new identity providers.

From social sites such as Facebook to the telcos who can enable the use of a mobile telephone number as an individual identifier, the mobile identification challenge is being rapidly addressed. Indeed, the telcos offer an additional advantage for brands by being able to add context to the identity and differentiation between the customer with a strong track record of regular bill payment and the one using a disposable phone.

At the very minimum, organisations today need to be offering consumers the option of single sign on via a social identity, such as Facebook or Twitter. There are a number of benefits to the social login approach – not least the ability to respond to the different expectations of Generation Y. This generation is more than happy to share personal information – but they want something in return, namely a far better experience, whether that is an improved service to exclusive access to content.

Lost Opportunity
Right now, however, with the current marketing engagement methodologies made available by brands they find it difficult if not impossible to be recognised by the brand from their many different devices. Having shared their information, if these individual don¹t get the personalised brand experience they expect, they will become rapidly disillusioned with the brand and likely vote with their feet and go to a site where they are recognised across their devices, carried or in-situ.

This is a massively wasted opportunity. Not only by continuing to focus on desktop development are brands looking in the wrong direction; they are also overlooking the compelling value of a mobile device. The way Generation Y uses the mobile creates a perfect opportunity to deliver custom experiences that reflect each individual’s interests and activities.

This is a not a trend set to reverse: the mobile will continue to dominate the way individuals of every age interact with brands – and the younger generations will increasingly have never even used a desktop platform. This is a turning point where major brands risk a significant decline as a result of failing to engage the Generation Y consumer.

At the same time, there are massive opportunities for new entrants who do understand the market to make a significant and swift impression, taking both a market and mind share of the new consumer.
 
Relevant Experience
Brands can exploit social sign on approach to deliver a far slicker mobile experience. And yet most are oblivious to the type of experience now required, an experience that recognises that a user may be near a store, or in a competitor’s store looking at a product and delivers a relevant response or offer in real-time.

The reality is that there are two fundamental changes that marketers need to address: technical and cultural. In their panic regarding the former, too many are completely ignoring the latter – which is far more critical.

Yes, device fragmentation is a challenge. Yes, it is harder to track consumers on mobiles – and getting more so given the latest announcements from Apple. But that is not the issue. Using solutions such as single sign on or using the mobile number as an identifier, the technical issues can be addressed and solved today. The far, far bigger issue that marketers appear completely oblivious to is one of culture. So just how does a brand plan to engage with Generation Y?

¹ IDC. http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/a#mobiletablet

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