Smartphone adoption in leading European markets, including the UK, has now topped 60 million[1], and predictions forcast that by 2013 smartphones will overtake PCs as the dominant web access service[2].

This burgeoning market presents huge opportunities for businesses to maintain contact with consumers 24/7 and influence purchase decisions in ways never before thought possible.

Richard Baker, managing director, Sequence explains how and why businesses should take advantage of this.

Prior to smartphones, mobile advertising was limited to opt-in mobile messaging and small ad banners, which were often difficult for the mobile user to read or be impressed by.

The advent of smartphones and our growing dependency on them creates opportunities for companies to exploit, and as a result, clever brands are increasingly shifting focus from hard sell, (SMS, banner adverts) to engagement.

Applications present great opportunities for businesses to interact with customers through a device that is personal to them. If brands can create two-way relationships with customers through their smartphone, it can open up a direct channel for engagement.

The challenge for businesses is how they initiate these relationships. Rather than being a passive audience to messaging, consumers are increasingly asking ‘what‘s in it for me?’.

Entertainment applications have proved an effective tool to help engage brands with consumers who might not normally buy their products, while also incorporating mentions of products and services. Barclaycard’s Waterslide Extreme game, launched earlier this year, immediately captured consumers’ attention with over 32,000 people downloading the application on its first day.

Business should also consider focusing on value, creating apps that customers perceive as improving their lives, or brightening their day. This can generate positive brand impressions, and keep users returning on a daily basis to be exposed to the brand.

Snow+Rock recently worked with us to release a practical application for hikers to download maps, popular routes and up-to-date weather information; helping Snow+Rock engage customers by improving their hiking experience, while also promoting the brand’s outdoor equipment and clothing.

Burger King also understand the benefits of providing value, and do so through mobile coupons; consumers who use the BK app receive vouchers and discounts, direct to their phone, which they can redeem in Burger King stores by showing to staff on their Smartphone.

Smartphones have become a channel that is increasingly difficult to ignore. As we see more businessess turn to mobile applications, a focus on engagement through branded, practical, and entertaining content will provide advantage to those looking to build relationships, direct sell to customers, and importantly, create advocates for the brand.

Businesses must however make sure that any application they do create is carefully thought out, incorporates brand values and importantly, works as they are intended. A shoddy application can do more damage than good to a brand’s reputation.

As with all new technologies, there is a period of uncertainty as users come to understand how they can be used most effectively. Businesses now realise the possibilities this new era in digital offers to them, and are only just beginning to explore its potential.

[1] The Chartered Institute for IT
[2] Economist Intelligence Unit

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