We‘ve all seen the statistics on the staggering growth of mobile. According to Google, mobile search will surpass the desktop search by the end of 2013, with Google mobile ad revenue reaching $8 billion in 2012 (increasing more than 3 times from 2011).

Yet, many brands and agencies have still been cautious in utilizing the mobile channels in their marketing efforts. Here are some of the typical challenges associated with the mobile outreach.

1.  Difficulty in tracking the right metrics. Many of today’s marketers come from the online desktop world. When it comes to analytics, we think in terms of unique visitors, time spent on the website, “thank you” page hits, online purchases, and other traditional desktop-related metrics. While some of these metrics can still be valuable when analyzing your mobile efforts, they clearly don’t offer deep enough insight into your mobile visitors’ behavior. Here are some of the important metrics that are typically missing from mobile web campaign reports:

  • Phone calls. Over 60 percent of mobile searches end in a phone call, according to Google. Calls generated from the mobile website seem to be a much more common “conversion” action than a form signup or a purchase. And yet many mobile marketing efforts don’t track calls!
  • In-store visits, purchases and coupon redemptions. When on-the-go, we often turn to our smartphones when making a decision to visit a local business. Over half of us have used our smart phones while inside a store to look up customer reviews and competitor pricing. Since most of the conversions with these types of interactions happen offline (outside of the website), they are difficult to track, yet they should not be ignored.
  • Accurate location of the visitor. Mobile engagement is about location and proximity. According to Google, over 70 percent of mobile searches are local, and according to TMC/comScore, 61 percent of local searches result in purchases, mostly offline. hile the importance of the local factor in mobile marketing is growing, we also have the benefits of the improved consumer locator capabilities, thanks to the permission-based GPS tracking. As a result, mobile marketers have access to much more accurate data on visitors location, down to a neighborhood or an intersection. This is something that is typically not possible with the PC web analytics that have to rely on less accurate IP address tracking.

2. Understanding consumer context is important. In the desktop world your website visitors’ context has not been that relevant and can generally be defined simply as “sitting at the computer.” At the same time the website you are visiting via a PC browser has the potential of knowing a lot more about you, your behavior and history, due to more sophisticated cookie tracking capabilities of the desktop devices. On mobile devices the situation is flipped: cookie tracking on smart phones is limited and less reliable, and as a result the advertiser knows less about you and your history. But the context of the mobile visitor becomes a lot more important.

Smartphone screens are limited in size, and mobile visitors are typically in a hurry. In addition, a mobile visitor can be anywhere – driving, at work, at home, in the kitchen, watching TV. Understanding the mobile visitor’s location and context, and connecting her with the right message has tremendous value. It saves your visitor’s most precious resource: time, and it improves conversions by serving your visitor the very focused piece of information she is looking for.

3. Understanding mobile behavior by device. There are still enough marketers out there who tend to bunch all mobile devices into the same “mobile” category. At piJnz, we often get asked if the smartphone-optimized websites built on our platform are tablet-compatible! In reality, tablet and smartphone visitors should be treated as two completely different categories, and tablet use is a lot closer to that of the home computer.

How we use iPads and tablets is very different from how we use smartphones. The majority of tablet use (over 65 percent) is at home, with the heaviest usage in the evening, after dinner time.

In addition, tablet use tends to be more about information consumption, while smartphone use is more action-oriented and urgent (e.g. about finding a restaurant or making a phone call).

Similarly, ensuring that smartphone-friendly sites are optimized for basic phones is probably not a good investment of time and resources. Even though the penetration of basic phones in the US is still pretty high (close to half of the population is still on feature phones), basic phone owners don’t use their devices the same way smart phone users do, and optimizing for basic phones can compromise the experience of more engaged (and affluent) smartphone customers.

4. Questionable effectiveness of mobile ads. You think most of us consider TV ads annoying? According to Mobile Marketer, the tolerance for mobile ads is 2.5 times lower than that of the television ads (with only 11 percent of smartphone users favoring mobile ads, as compared to 27 percent favoring TV ads). The high click-through ratio of mobile ads that some mobile marketers brag about may be attributed to fat-fingering, with as many as 40 percent of ad clicks being accidental or fraudulent, according to Trademob study.

5. Responsive web design: easier for Google and content editors, not always best for optimized mobile experiences. Google has been promoting responsive web design (which means serving exactly the same content to all devices) as the preferred web development method. Many SEO experts are beginning to understanding this as Google’s recommendation for search engine optimization, and encouraging their business clients to eschew custom mobile experiences in favor of responsive design.

While responsive design makes it easier for Google to index online content, and certainly makes it easier for the business owners to manage their web content (since only one version of the site copy needs to be maintained across all the devices), responsive design approach has serious limitations when it comes to optimizing for the user experience.

In many cases we look for different information on smartphones than we do on PCs or tablets, and serving different content for smartphone visitors can improve the mobile user experience and conversion rates.

Customizing your call-to-action based on the device is likely to improve conversions. A longer signup form can work on a PC, yet on a smartphone you would probably want to replace that with an easier way to contact you – via a phone call or a short form.

If understanding consumer context and serving the right focused message that fits that context is what drives the conversions and improves the user experience, then responsive web design approach can work against what is best for the business and the customer.

The growing popularity of mobile engagement comes with its set of challenges: metrics that may unobvious and difficult to track, the need to customize your message based on consumer context, and currently recommended practices that may contradict your objectives. With that, there is plenty of opportunity for new mobile tools, innovative solutions and experiments.