December 6, 2010

3 Mobile Campaign Mistakes Big Brands Make & How To Profit From Them

(Read in entirety at Search Engine Land – November, 2010)

Over the past few months I’ve focused my articles for Search Engine Land’s Analyze This column on helping marketers prepare to maximize their 2010 holiday season mobile results. I’ve covered mobile landing page optimization tactics, and how to calculate mobile’s business impact across marketing channels. With that foundation behind us, and Black Friday now just days away, I want to conclude this series with some of the most common mobile campaign mistakes I see big brands making this holiday season—and how you can use their mistakes to your own advantage.

Mistake #1: Unoptimized Mobile PPC Ads

Mobile searchers are as impatient as holiday mall shoppers—and more disloyal. Who has the time to click through search result listings that may take 30+ seconds to load? That’s actually the most common and worst mistake, but I’ve already covered that ground. If you have optimized your landing pages for mobile users, it’s time to promote that in your ad copy. Take advantage of search ad device targeting. Give mobile searchers a clear signal that your site is “iPhone optimized” or “Android ready.” Searchers see these signals as shortcuts that may help them survive the torture of today’s mobile web. Trust me, they’ll reward you for it.

Take Macy’s, REI, and Zappos: three great brands, all competing for my mobile “men’s wool socks” search click.

Men's Wool Sock Mobile Search

REI’s landing page features a best-practice mobile experience. But who would guess this judging by their ad copy? Likewise who would have guessed Zappos’ landing page would surprisingly produce a 404 error? Or that Macy’s mobile landing page has no product images? REI could add a call to action as simple as “Buy from your iPhone now!” to differentiate their search ad and endear me to the brand—had they helped me avoid wasting such time.

Word of caution: Don’t go overboard or start playing bait-and-switch games. I recently called out poor examples from a leading cruise company where they do in fact leave the mobile searcher, shall we say, out at sea.

Mistake #2: Bad Mobile Campaign Links

Underscoring this opportunity is mistake #2. In the mad scramble to get a mobile presence, many great brands are committing basic campaign errors that frustrate their mobile users, hurt conversions and undermine confidence in the brand—presenting opportunity for competition.

In the “men’s wool socks” mobile query above, Zappos’ ad drops users to a (rather flippant) 404 dead end:

Zappos Mobile 404 Error

Big deal right? Well committing this error costs Zappos their brand advantage in the battle. In a split second, the shopper subconsciously places Zappos in direct competition with Google to decide which brand is now more capable of helping the user find what they’re looking for. Given the current Zappos’ dead end, and an untarnished confidence in Google, the user is logically forced to bounce back to Google and select another brand, rather than re-typing the search query and rolling the dice again at Zappos.

JCPenney’s mobile searchers and SMS subscribers have faced similar frustrations, where the promoted URL on numerous occasions leads users to dead pages.

JC Penney SMS Campaign JC Penney Mobile Site

Or consider brands like Home Depot that use a separate mobile platform to render mobile optimized pages. Organic search and shopping feed services depend on native site URLs that are submitted or crawled. When mobile searchers select these high ranking links, mobile user get directed to the brand’s mobile home page, instead of the product or category page requested. While not as egregious as the Zappos example, the mobile searcher is again given a reason to bounce back to Google and select another brand.

The culprit in these scenarios is typically the mobile “sniffing” technology used to detect smartphone users and then redirect them to a more mobile-friendly page. In cases like Zappos, they may not offer a mobile friendly page for that product or category. In the case of mobile platforms, they have not properly mapped the native URL request to the mobile platform URL. As a result, the sniffer logic either breaks or simply produces bad user experience. In a future article I’ll cover the analytic issues with this problem—how it goes under the radar, how to create visibility and guard your brand from falling victim to it.

Now imagine if Zappos had provided a smarter mobile 404 page, programmed to parse the referral URL, extract the search query, and provide the mobile user with pre-loaded clickable query link (for example, “continue shopping Zappos for men’s wool socks here”) which executes an internal search query when clicked. This mobile page would have been more helpful and actionable for mobile users, and may have given Zappos a second chance to earn the business.

The point is this: bad mobile campaign links are rampant and tough to manage. This problem will present huge opportunities for competitors who are ready.

Mistake #3: Not Promoting The Mobile App

eMarketer confirmed last week that mobile shoppers prefer the mobile web over apps to do so. But don’t let this devolve into a “mobile app vs. mobile web” debate. To the contrary, I can’t think of a more targeted, more cost effective or more captive platform on which to pitch your app, than to the highly qualified mobile users already consuming your mobile web pages, right now. Surprisingly, many big brands are passing up this cross-promotion boondogle, including Target, Best Buy, Home Depot—all of which provide mobile optimized landing pages as well as mobile apps (for the iPhone, anyway). If you have an app, this holiday season is your best opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

Think of it: There are over 45,000 apps already in the iTunes “lifestyle” category (where most free retail brand iPhone apps live). Just as with your SEO efforts on websites, reaching the top 10 list is not easy, but those that do benefit from Apple’s endorsement effect. Since app popularity is still based primarily on downloads, brands with large mobile site traffic are in the best position to influence app rankings, convert incremental holiday season lift into downloads, and boost app rankings to ensure greater future downloads at no incremental cost.

Amazon is one of the few that does intelligently cross-promote the app based on the mobile device used to access the site. The mobile page detects that I’m using an iPhone browser, and promotes the iPhone Amazon app. Clicking the button triggers the iTunes app download process. Is it any surprise Amazon’s app is ranked near the top of Apple’s list?

Amazon iPhone App Promotion

Be mobile. Good luck.

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