The rapid growth in the usage of smartphones devices in most parts of the world is having an impact on consumers and businesses too. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly influencing how the consumers are shopping, making buying decisions and engaging with brands. The decision to purchase is now influenced by content that users generate and others read, for example reviews, and social media peer opinions.

According to eMarketer, up to one third of consumers in North America and Western Europe use their mobile devices to access social media at least once in a month in 2012. Today more than 50% of all the people on Twitter and Facebook are accessing these social platforms using their mobile devices.

The rise of the mobile consumers (90% of the world population has access to a mobile network) is increasingly blurring the sheer differences between online and offline trade. Many marketers and brands are already experiencing this shift as consumers choose to assess a brand and their products through their mobile devices before making a purchase. This shift has several implications for search, as the mobile consumers are essentially so much closer to the point of sale than they are when conducting searches on their desktops. A large majority of consumers are also looking for local businesses while they are on the move, thanks to location-based online tools.

As a result of the proliferation and the increasing use of mobile devices, brands must look for ways to optimize their marketing strategies for the mobile consumer. Marketers must understand the search implications that mobile phone usage may have on sales and ROI in the long term. There are major differences between mobile search and desktop search. For example, the smaller interface on mobile devices means that users will not see both paid ads and organic search results.

Studies indicate that mobile users are keener on search results when searching using their phones than they are when searching from their desktop. In fact, the click through rates for mobile ads is higher than for paid or organic searches on desktop.

A recent, independent study by Marin Software shows that mobile users are more likely to click on a paid advertisement than they are when using a computer. In the last year alone, the click through rates for Smartphone was 1.25%, that of tablets stood at 1.31%, while desktop click through rates for PPC was only 0.95%. It is important for marketers to track and measure click through rates as they are a strong indicator of the searcher’s behavior.

Mobile users are more likely to use their phones while lying in bed or waiting for something according to InMobi.

Mobile Marketing influences the customers’ behavior through the purchase path. 26% of those interviewed said that it helped them to find something nearby and for 11% of them, it influenced their in-store purchase (source: InMobi).

During TV commercials, mobile users keep themselves occupied with their phones: they check and reply to emails, participate in contests via SMS, visit a site mentioned on TV or even exchange ideas about a show through the chat feature. Mobile Internet users spend on average 10 hours a week in the UK, US and France as per a report from Microsoft.

Many studies show that by 2015 more people will access Internet using their mobile devices than they will through the PC. Smartphones sales are also on the rise when compared to the sale of computers including laptops and tablets. According to the research group Canalys, up to 500 million smartphones were sold worldwide in 2011 alone; this is in contrast to just 400 million computers.

However, the mobile consumer is typically very specific about the types of activities he conducts with his mobile device. According to a report from eMarketer:

a) up to 67% of online mobile users are searching for local businesses and whether the store offers the product they are looking for

b) up to 66% of mobile consumers search for local offers

c) up to 43% use their mobile devices to look for directions within a store

d) another 43% is looking for reviews and peer opinions about brands before making a purchasing decision.

As per ABI Research there are gender variations toward smartphone and tablet content in the US.

The mobile consumer is largely using mobile browsers to shop, search and to get access to music and videos. There is also a rising interest in mobile applications that make all these activities easier for the consumer. It is advisable for brands to consider how they can develop valuable apps that will enhance consumer interaction and engagement with the brand.

Things You Can Do

As seen, the growing trends in mobile usage are inevitable. The rise of the mobile consumer has several implications for businesses. The truth is that marketers and brands who fail to effectively embrace mobile will miss the lucrative opportunity for customer engagement.

The first steps when planning a mobile campaign are to check the type of devices your audience use, set up Analytics and test the campaign before launching it.

So what else can be done to leverage the mobile consumer?

Take Social Mobile Seriously: Many studies show that large numbers of mobile phone users are accessing social platforms using their mobile devices. As such, marketers should seek to reach out to their social communities through mobile. Businesses should also make it feasible for consumers to reach them through social media platforms that have been optimized for mobile.

After identifying the social media platforms that are suitable for your brand, go ahead and develop social mobile campaigns that offer users mobile friendly content. Ensure that the content you provide through social portals is visually attractive and brief. The visual attractiveness and conciseness of platforms such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter have made these platforms very popular among mobile social users.

Optimize For Mobile: There is nothing worse than a mobile user finding a blank page or a poor redirection when they try to access a site from their mobile phones. To avoid losing customers in this way, it is advisable for marketers to optimize their websites so that they are accessible on mobile. Ensure that you create a web layout that is compatible with Smartphone browsers. It is also important to take into consideration the loading speed for the mobile web pages. Slow loading speeds are also a big turn off for the mobile consumer.

Something else you want to pay attention to are your pages. Ensure that consumers can reach a specific page without the need to click on too many links. Focus less on graphics and more on a layout that will enable the consumer to access the message fully without disruptions.

Create Mobile Friendly Content: Finally, offer your customers valuable content whether it is through social platforms, blogs or a website. However, the content too must be optimized for mobile so that your audience has a pleasant user experience. In your content, include short URLs and links, call to actions for downloads, hyperlinks to more valuable content as well as links to social sites and location-based services.

In conclusion, the larger picture is clear, the diversity and technological development of Internet enabled mobile devices will continue to grow. Marketers and brands will and should continue to find innovative ways to engage the mobile consumer.