Another year is over, and another year was pronounced as the 'Year of Mobile'. While pundits have been saying this every year for as long as anyone can remember, it is at last the truth as mobile device adoption has reached a critical mass. But, in the rush to embrace all things mobile, many marketers are still lagging behind, according to Brendan O'Kane, CEO for mobile analytics firm OtherLevels. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

As mobile devices are reaching critical mass, with subscriptions hitting a whopping 6 billion, and Apple's and Google's app stores exploding with new apps - a combined total of 1.4 million, there is a growing importance for marketers to not only 'go mobile', but do mobile well. However, for marketers to truly get ahead in the New Year, they need to know how to analyse and measure the effectiveness of their mobile engagement, be it advertising, push notifications, SMS or mobile email - and then act on that data.

So, what was missing in 2012? It wasn't adoption, or devices. It was analytics, measurement and marketers embracing mobile's differences. In this sense, analytics and measurement refers to the marketer's ability to measure the effectiveness of mobile engagement, whether it be advertising, push notifications, SMS or mobile email, and then their ability to act on that data.

And the idea of "embracing mobile's differences" refers simply to understanding that mobile is not simply email or banner advertising for a smaller screen. This is increasingly obvious to marketers, many of whom have already recognised that they can't apply the same old web metrics to mobile and get the same results. The channels differ, the experience is different, and so is the engagement.

So instead of thinking of 2013 as yet another 'Year of Mobile', think of it as the 'Year of Mobile Measurement'. Mobile analytics and measurement are constantly making great strides, establishing themselves as an indispensable component of any mobile engagement campaign and, as a result, there are five key changes coming in the mobile messaging and measurement landscape:

  1. SMS will remain highly relevant
    Anyone who's just received one of those 'We'll buy your junk car' or 'Here's today's best gambling tip' messages might disagree, but SMS will live on despite newer and arguably more visually engaging formats precisely because of its simplicity and directness. Think about its simplicity: "Read our message. Text 1 to opt-in, text 2 to opt-out." We can therefore expect SMS to remain highly relevant in both the developed world as well as in the developing world (where feature phones still outnumber smartphones). With messaging being very limited, marketers will learn to make every character count.
  2. The mobile as a sophisticated marketing tool
    Marketers will demand the same sophistication from mobile as they do from other marketing channels. Current mobile analytics aren't meeting the needs or challenges of marketers to engage or retain their mobile audiences, and show ROI. But now that the conversation has moved from whether to go mobile to how, marketers will demand the same sophistication that has been applied to print, TV and desktop measurement to gauge campaigns' effectiveness - and justify their growing mobile budgets.
  3. Big data will drive engagement, retention & revenue
    The current focus on 'Big Data' will shift toward 'Smart Data'. Mobile marketers will start paying more attention to metrics that go beyond data gathering to the analysis of the kind of deep granular information (e.g. location, coupon clicks, organic vs. targeted re-engagement) that provides customer context and makes for successful targeting of individuals. The result will be smarter, more engaged customers, driving both retention (which is far less costly than acquiring new customers) and of course sales.
  4. Fine-tuning the mobile message
    Traditional 'A/B split testing' for mobile campaigns will boom, and become a regular part of app development and management. New start-ups offering analytics services that go far beyond download counts and open rates to deliver better engagement will come on the scene. Through A/B split testing and more precise targeting, marketers will be more effective, fine tuning their marketing messages to perfection. Bombarding customers and users with poorly timed or irrelevant mobile messages will hopefully be consigned at last to the history books.
  5. The development of mobile metrics
    Not only will marketers be doing more A/B split testing, but they'll also be using the gathered data for message re-targeting to unresponsive customers and users, leaving no stone unturned in their quest to engage, retain and maximise the value of their audiences. There will be significant investment in metrics such as action analytics (campaigns tied to actions and ROI) that go beyond simply tracking who downloaded what, when, and how many times. And, while there might not be an iron-clad set of industry wide measurement standards by the end of2013, mobile metrics will make huge strides in opening up a world of constant testing, feedback and improvement for marketers and consumers alike.

In the near term, apps will advance, the native versus non-native app debate will continue, SMS will resist smartphone domination and SMS spam will also continue. But the maturing mobile outlook combined with the advancement of action analytics and metrics necessary to cater to that rising maturity is where the action will be. "With a heightened focus on engagement, retention and sales, there will be more thoughtful, intelligent and targeted campaigns delivering higher returns and a better overall mobile experience," concluded O'Kane.