Mobile phones have changed not only the way we live and communicate. They have also changed the way we think. Customers have experienced a mind shift: They expect any desired information or service to be available, on any appropriate device, in context, at their moment of need. Technologies packed in mobile devices enable people not only to instantly consume but also to create content and maintain greater control in their everyday lives.

Customers' behaviors are becoming as sophisticated as their devices. Mobile has become the new digital hub. According to our Technographics data, 47% of European online adults who own a mobile phone use mobile apps at least weekly. Forty-five percent browse the Internet at least weekly, and 38% search for information on mobile search engines, too. In the US, 50% of online adults who use a mobile phone use their devices to check sports, weather, or news at least weekly. Forty-five percent access social networks on their phones at least weekly, and 22% research physical products for purchase! This implies that you must have a mobile component for your digital strategy. But it goes beyond this, as mobile is bridging the offline and online worlds.

Yes, mobile is a hot topic. Reading the press or listening to conferences, you may be under the impression that marketers have embraced the mobile mind shift and are really integrating mobile into the marketing mix. A significant majority of marketers told us that their senior leadership team understands the importance of mobile.

Really? We find this hard to believe.

There is still a mismatch between customers’ and marketers’ mobile usage. Marketers are using a wide range of mobile tactics and technologies. However, there is a disconnect between technologies rolled out and regular usage among customers. Marketers tend to focus too heavily on building native mobile apps, spending money where they don’t need to — porting apps to unproven platforms with limited reach and usage instead of connecting their apps to their CRM systems; relying too significantly on trendy mobile technologies (e.g., QR codes or augmented reality); embracing the latest concepts, such as responsive web design, as one-offs instead of thinking about the need to contextualize offerings for different devices; or failing to make the most of more mainstream mobile technologies (e.g., SMS or mobile Web).

Since the first release of Forrester’s mobile POST report four years ago, we've been saying that marketers should focus on understanding the mobile behaviors of their core target audience and stop focusing first on mobile technologies per se. Unfortunately, the reality is that the passion for mobile technology acronyms (NFC, AR, LTE, RWD, QR, etc.) still prevails.

For now, marketers are talking more than they are acting or planning their mobile approach. Here a few stats from our Q1 2013 Global Mobile Maturity Executive Online Survey:

–       While many are trialing mobile technologies, 42% of marketers we surveyed told us they have had a mobile strategy for less than a year or were in the early stages of building one.

–       Forty-three percent don’t know their customers’ mobile behaviors.

–       Only 37% told us they have the budget they need for their mobile initiatives.

–       Only 45% have defined a mobile road map for the next six months.

Consequently, it is no surprise that organizing for mobile is a growing challenge for marketers. Global brands often have to deal with dozens of mobile initiatives that stretch across the organization, well beyond marketing. Marketers and their companies will benefit from a coordinated approach to these mobile initiatives, though most companies haven’t yet embraced a structure that facilitates smart prioritization and best-practice sharing.

Marketing leaders must not get bogged down in debates about ownership over mobile. Instead, they must first work with their business and IT counterparts to decide how best to allocate strategic mobile resources and implement enterprise-wide mobile governance. Then they must acquire and develop mobile expertise to execute mobile campaigns.

It is thus urgent to move away from the quixotic quest for the latest shiny objects and from dabbling with new technology. Marketers should focus on delivering useful experiences that meet the growing expectations of customers on their most intimate devices.

Marketing leaders who start focusing on how mobile is fundamentally changing their core audience’s behaviors and attitudes, and who define a business case by implementing new tools to measure mobile success, will be able to leapfrog the competition. In just two to three years’ time, failing to close the gap between your consumer’s usage of mobile and your own will not just damage your brand; it will:

  • Increase your opportunity costs. Conversion rates are significantly lower on mobile phones today, due in large part to a failure to optimize the mobile experience. This is not just damaging to your brand, it also means you’re losing sales. Perhaps you think this is not a big deal because only 10% of your traffic comes from mobile devices. But what will you do when, one day soon, mobile represents 30% or 40% of your traffic?
  • Make you irrelevant. Customer expectations are shifting quickly with mobile, and people expect relevant and contextualized experiences. They want information and services right now and are simply unwilling to wait for them. If you don’t offer these customers immediate and relevant experiences, a competitor or a new entrant will.
  • Render you unprepared to evolve your business model. Because of their unique ability to bridge the offline and online worlds, mobile phones offer huge disruption opportunities.
  • Force you to stick with outmoded computing form factors. Mobile is the catalyst for broader technology and marketing changes. Marketers who are not ready to move away from a traditional marketing approach to develop new experiences for the most complex platform today will be lost in a world where computing will be disconnected from screens.
  • Eat up your budget. Moving from project to project, trial to trial, and technology to technology without a five-year mobile plan can only lead to increasing costs and lost money.

Clients who want to know more about this can read our two brand new reports:

–       Understanding The Gap Between Consumers’ And Marketers’ Use Of Mobile

–       Organize For Mobile Marketing Success