The way consumers shop, compare and buy has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. And even traditional store-traffic customers will research their purchases online before they buy.

The fact is, prospective customers are looking for your product or service on their smartphone.

Smartphone usage is growing fast as 64%—up from 35% in 2011—of Americans own smartphones, and 19% are relying to some extent on their smartphone for Internet access and staying connected. According to eMarketer, 66.5 billion US local search queries were done last year via smartphones which surpasses, for the first time, searches conducted by desktop computers at 65.6 billion. More and more are turning to the smartphone to complete an increasing variety of tasks.

Such tasks include looking up health information, online banking, looking up real estate listings, obtaining job information, looking up government services, educational research, submitting job applications, and obtaining driving directions. This growing number of smartphone users and the increasing number of reasons for using them are having significant effects on both advertising and marketing.

The Smartphone Effect

This shift towards increasing smartphone usage means that advertisers and marketers will have to shift their strategies and campaigns in a more mobile-centric direction. For instance, companies without a mobile-friendly website risk losing valuable exposure on Google web search queries because Google has changed its algorithm so that more mobile-friendly websites have priority placement for search queries made on mobile devices.

Another important point for marketers and advertisers is the fact that smartphones are not only receivers but also transmitters of information. Smartphones have become huge repositories of information on individual tastes and preferences. This means advertisers and marketers have the ability to be much more specific in their ad and marketing campaigns, and able to offer more relevant messages to different types of groups or individuals.

While this means that consumers are now expecting this increased relevance from brand advertising, it also means that consumers expect relevance when and where it is needed. Consumers are increasingly consulting their smartphones to help them make every day decisions. For example, 69% of smartphone users look for travel ideas while waiting in a line or for the subway, and 82% of users turn to their phone when deciding whether or not to buy a specific product while standing in the store. In these moments, speed and relevance of advertisement is of utmost importance for brands to make an impression that will influence the decision-making process of potential consumers.

The Bottom Line

Smartphone usage will continue to grow and understanding how and when consumers are using them is crucial for companies’ ad and marketing campaigns. As smartphone data collection and analysis technology becomes more sophisticated, the speed and relevance of ad and marketing campaigns will be significantly more important. If the competing brand can reach consumers with a relevant message at the precise moment when it is needed then they will have made that crucial first impression, and other brands will continually try to play catch up.

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