Digital marketing is about people, not devices, it’s an adage that’s often forgotten

I spent yesterday (17 May) at IAB Mobile Engage listening to brands talk about how they’re transitioning to a world gone mobile and for the first time, presenters are talking about people not just tech.  

Ronan Shields

It may seem an elementary point but often in the world of new media, the (extremely intelligent and talented) people putting the technology together focus on ‘what’s possible’.

This thinking is great, and entirely what’s needed to propel society as a whole forward, but oftentimes this thinking comes at the expense of an appreciation of just how people actually behave, especially in mobile.

There have been countless ‘breakthrough mobile technologies’ throughout the years – everything from WiMax to 3D smartphones, the list could go on.

While many of them are impressive in their technical accomplishment, at some point in the production process nobody asked themselves: ‘How are people going to use this?’.

So that’s why it was reassuring to hear presenters at this year’s Mobile Engage event – one that has grown unbelievably in the last three years – remind delegates of what it was all about.

Notable among the presenters was the impressive eBay VP of marketing for Europe, Alexander von Schirmeister.

Von Schirmeister used his address to explain the need for retailers to become much more sophisticated and start catering to audiences on different platforms where they are consuming media are already. 

Notably he pointed out that almost half of all smartphone and tablet users engage in “showrooming”, i.e. looking at items in a physical retail outlet only to purchase said items later (often for a cheaper price) online.

When you think that nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s top 100 brands still don’t have a mobile optimised site, this is startling.

This lack of agility among brands often stems from their finance departments. Von Schirmeister gave some insight into how eBay puts paid to the spoilsport accountants.

“We’re running lots of tests and trials that are allowed to go fast and fail fast, it’s better to do this, rather than get mired in internal politics,” he said.  

“It’s difficult to run mobile campaigns and work out which ones work best and if you have a lot of ‘left-brainers’ in a finance department that want to know an ROI before they give you the money… that’s the wrong way to go.”

Elsewhere, Google mobile solutions manager Mary Burris, gave some insight into how it reins in the Mountainview techno-philes.

“You mustn’t let shiny new technology get in the way of what’s most important… you need to align your value proposition tot what people care about,” she told attendees.

Dominic Allon, Google’s director of agency sales, further hammered this point home.

“People that ask the question: ‘What are we doing about mobile?’ are asking the wrong question. It should be ‘what are we doing about people [and their consumption habits].”

It may be an elementary lesson but it’s one that is often forgotten in the excitement of rapidly developing technology. 

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