It’s Time to Get Serious About Mobile ROI

Rachel Pasqua is vp of mobile at iCrossing and author of Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day. Follow her on Twitter @rachelpasqua.

Mobile ROI is the elephant in the room that marketers find hard to address. It’s the primary factor preventing mobile from fulfilling its promise. While brands continue to spend (for now), this momentum can’t endure unless we find and adapt ROI models that are rooted in the behaviors of mobile consumers.

The digital ad industry is renowned for its ability to track and quantify every click and conversion. However, mobile seems to be a victim of the “next big thing” syndrome, where newer media tactics don’t get the same rigorous evaluation as traditional ones. What’s more, the models we rely on don’t always work for mobile — at least not in the same way. Ultimately, the reason we haven’t yet to unlock the ROI of mobile is very simple: We haven’t been trying all that hard.

When it’s commonplace for a consumer to locate a store on her smartphone, visit that store and do a quick price comparison on her ShopSavvy app, and then pay at the physical register, the traditional model of calculating ROI simply doesn’t work. There’s a significant loss of data as she moves between multiple devices and real-world touchpoints. We need to develop a model that addresses this problem by building on what we know about the desktop Web, mobile devices and consumer purchasing behavior.

For example, product details viewed on a smartphone are far more likely to be viewed in-store when the consumer is closer to making a decision, elevating the value of that action. Likewise, it’s logical that a higher percentage of customers requesting store-locator information on a smartphone will visit that store. Assume a reasonable conversion number and average shopping cart value, and you start to have a high-level approximation of value.

Brick-and-mortar brands have the most tangible opportunity. By integrating location into their mobile sites, apps and campaigns, then geo-mapping actions to in-store conversions, they can prove the theory. But the imperative to define mobile ROI applies equally to all brand marketers. We need to shake off the complacency that comes when money is flowing into the coffers and get serious about implementing a structure that assigns a different value to traditional metrics when they occur in the mobile context. And we need to figure out the intrinsic value of some new ones — the value of an app download or an SMS opt-in, for example.

Admittedly, mobile is a complex ecosystem with a huge variety of metrics to figure out. We won’t get there overnight, but we can get there faster with a willingness to adapt our traditional models to changing user behaviors. According to the ANA/MediaVest survey, 42 percent of the brands surveyed stated that understanding mobile metrics and nailing down ROI are their main concerns for 2013 — questions our industry must answer in order for mobile to truly come into its own.

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