Let us start with a social experiment- All of us have seen big banner hoardings at important intersections and crossings all over the city. Now look for people under the age of 30 in cars (when they are passengers, co-passengers, and not driving). What do you see? Let us guess- you see nearly all of them on their smartphones consuming content, social media, news, shopping, blogging, and the like.

In changing times, we need to understand how an industry evolves, how its TG changes magnanimously, how the mediums change, and how we need to address these evolutions. We have often heard the proverb or saying- ‘Perform or Perish’; but in my marketing and advertising experience, I have tweaked it to mean- ‘Evolve or Perish’.

The subject matter of this article is to trace the evolution of marketing and advertising and to understand why a ‘Mobile First’ approach is a sure shot bet for Digital Marketing Companies and Creative Agencies. We try to look at how advertising in general and digital marketing, in particular, is changing rapidly, and why is it important for brands and agencies should adapt to the changing times.

How Advertising and Marketing have Changed Overtime:

Gone are the days when brand managers and marketing heads would scour the city for the best locations to put up their hoardings. Most of them have already moved from concentrating on physical forms of advertising to bidding on keywords on Google with their Digital Marketing Agencies. Even political parties now focus on digital marketing, for example with political campaign text message marketing, which has proved to be very successful.

Digital Marketing budgets of brands, big or small, keep increasing YoY. There is absolutely no question on the expanse of the market that the digital offers. If brands and agencies are able to navigate the digital marketing maze, they can open up avenues of expansion and revenue increases that would be astronomical, inter-continental, and eventual IPOs.

The Digital Revolution aided and aided by an able Information Technology Revolution has changed the economic, social, political, and cultural landscape of the world. The two biggest countries (in terms of population) China and India, and its population have taken to digital, as a fish does to water. However, as compared to the west, in China and India, the change in digital in terms of information technology has skipped a step.

Many people, who write articles on a ‘Mobile First’ Digital Marketing Approach, fail to look at factors, which led to its existence. I feel the need that when we address solutions, we need to be smart enough to understand how the problem or complication arose in the first place.

India and China: The Drivers of Mobile-First Approach:

As compared to the west where people and societies transitioned to the digital through desktops, laptops, tablets, and eventually phones, in India and China, for millions, the first exposure to the internet had happened on the mobile phone.

We need to keep in mind that emerging economies play a very important role as drivers for brands, businesses, and growth. Some of the biggest brands in the world are concentrating on India and China because of the size of the markets, in pure numbers.

Populations in these two countries skipped a step in the digital advent journey by a straightaway diving head on to internet services on mobile phones. The slashing of data fares by billion-dollar telecom conglomerates like JIO, Vodafone, and others further enabled this.

To give you an example from my own home, my parents have seamlessly transitioned from newspapers and televisions to smartphones. Along the way, they skipped desktops and laptops. They consume Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels, surf YouTube for the most uncommon video content that you and I would never search for, and have even taken to online grocery shopping.

Given such a scenario, along with the global trend of millennials consuming content on smartphones, brands, and digital agencies started concentrating on just offering content, services, products on smartphones through mobile-friendly websites (optimized to perfection), and the curious, confusing and interesting world of Mobile Applications or as many of us know them- ‘APPS’!

Brands and the ‘Mobile First’ Digital Marketing Approach:

If you are a smart marketer, you cannot be living under a rock when the world, its patterns, and trends are changing. To understand and exploit this potential, several of the world’s biggest brands adopted a ‘Mobile First’ Approach to digital marketing. This entailed redirecting and reallocating budgets, setting up newer subdivisions, and changing the focus from website/desktop to mobile/social media.

We need to keep another important factor in our heads. This period of transition when the world was moving increasingly towards mobile phones was also the time when social media was the rage! Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have changed our digital landscape, as we knew it. People were consuming content on their mobile phones, brands needed to be present on social media, and a mobile phone was the common element.

Social media by its very nature is a personal thing, yes, you read it right, and no, it is not a typo. Time for another social experiment- how many times have you seen people surfing social media at work on their desktops, and how many times have you seen the same people surfing social media on their mobile phones? I told you, it was not a typo!

Brands realized this and jumped at the opportunity to change the trajectory of their Digital Marketing initiatives. This resulted in in-app developments, mobile optimization of the website, lesser loading time, and changing SEO strategies (yes, Mobile needs a different and slightly tweaked SEO strategy than a desktop; bet your Agency did not tell you that!).

Difference between ‘Mobile First’ and ‘Mobile Only’ Strategy:

In a ‘Mobile First’ strategy, brands concentrate on mobiles, without abandoning their access points from the website, or desktop. More concentration in terms of budgets, teams, strategies, and other investments are made by keeping the mobile and its app a priority. For many brands, a mobile-first approach also means launching a website first on a mobile, and then optimizing the same for the desktop- exactly the other way around.

While brands and companies have started venturing out into the Mobile First strategy, they feel that the time is not right to transition to a Mobile Only strategy. Online Indian Fashion Retailer, MYNTRA, found that the hard way, when it first exited the website, desktops, and shifted to an App only strategy, but was soon forced to relaunch its website, owing to loss of revenues.

Social Media will Lead the Way in a Mobile-First Approach:

Borrowing for a point that we had mentioned earlier, the presence of social media and its consumption on mobile devices was a great impetus for brands to shift to a mobile-first strategy. We need to remember that a ‘Mobile First’ Digital strategy does not only entail optimizing your website but also means calculating the kind of budget you are spending.

According to many reports, Facebook and Instagram advertising will account for 73% of all dollars spent on advertising by 2020. That is ambitious, scary, but inevitable at the same time. Companies and brands spend a lot of money on advertising and lead gen campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and other social channels.

The Future of the Mobile-First Digital Marketing Approach:

Like all things digital, it is always difficult to predict the growth stages of a ‘Mobile First’ Digital Marketing future. We can at least say that the future is upon us, and most of the brands have started to make the transition to the approach- first mover’s advantage!

The Big Daddy of them all, Google, has already been quite vocal in its approach towards Mobile, saying that Google will give preference to brands and sites who are mobile-friendly, among other things. This has opened up an entirely new area of expertise, a sphere in which people are studying issues like conversion rates on mobile devices, versus conversion rates on desktop devices.

The future for a Mobile-First approach is growing incrementally, both in terms of consumers, as well as in terms of revenues, financial considerations, and other things. However, at the end of the day, you need to analyze what is right for the brand, and how you want to take your growth. Like all things on digital, there are several best practices for a Mobile-First Strategy. However, to be realistic, will depend on countries, consumers, and the Information Technology Revolution.

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Ejaz Ahmed

Part-time blogger, full-time dreamer! Ejaz Ahmed likes to think about how technology will ultimately transform human lives for the better. He is deeply fascinated with using technology to democratize the spread of useful information on the internet.

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