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Reader Forum: Smartphone vs. tablet marketing – where context matters

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reader Forum section. In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: [email protected]

For some, the definition of mobile covers an expansive range of devices: anything that is not a PC is considered a mobile device. For others, mobile relates only to smartphones. But for mobile marketers, what really matters is the delivery of a relevant, contextually correct experience that properly relates to the customer, their profile, behavior, location and device.

“People don’t use tablets in the same ways they use smartphones. The context in which people use their tablets dictates a unique marketing approach,” explains Forrester analyst Thomas Husson. Often, a one-size-fits-all strategy that treats all mobile device-types the same results in a poor user experience that alienates the customer. In fact, research from Google shows that 79% of mobile customers will leave and search for another site following a poor mobile experience, while 48% said that “a bad mobile experience meant that the company didn’t care about their business.”

In addition, the growing focus on an omni-channel approach adds to this challenge as it ties the contextual requirement and multi-channel brand consistency together. Fundamentally, every individual experience is connected and the aggregation of these experiences collectively forms a customer’s brand experience, whether positive or negative.

Today, rising customer expectations for mobile experiences combined with an ever-growing array of smartphones and tablets force marketers to develop a more segmented mobile strategy and execution. The new critical path is delivering contextually correct experiences regardless of the device. Even if a marketer sends the right content in the correct context to the proper target in the correct language across all channels, the customer experience can fall short of the last two feet of the journey – at the device. Marketers must start by understanding the differences in behavior, expectations, use and contextual considerations between smartphones and tablets in order to optimize the value associated with the brand experience regardless of the mobile device.


Smartphones are fused to our everyday existence – we carry them everywhere and we even keep them next to us when we sleep. As a channel, they offer an unrivaled opportunity to connect with customers as they provide an opportunity to delight customers through multiple and often repeatable experiences, if consistently delivered within the right context.

Those looking to market via the smartphone channel need to understand the customer and what they want or need to accomplish via a smartphone as it relates to their organization’s brand. Only by uncovering customer tasks and their expectations will marketers develop and execute the appropriate mobile strategy for smartphone users.

For example, Lexus understands that when clients use their smartphones (rather than tablets or PCs), they are likely to seek out very specific types of information such as showroom or service locations and car features or specifications. By prioritizing these specific content options in the navigation and by eliminating content and media that are not relevant on a phone, Lexus elevates and streamlines the experience and makes it easy for customers to find the information they are looking for.

Marketers also must add value to the experience. This is often difficult to do, especially since mobile marketing often operates within multiple organizational silos. First and foremost, both apps and mobile Web must provide the mobile user with a valuable experience, whether it’s quickly providing information or part of a social-centric mobile campaign.

Gimmicks will not work. For example, implementing GPS features to a mobile site or app should provide recognizable value, otherwise what is the point? An example of a well-executed experience is Denver International Airport’s app that uses GPS information to locate where the customer is within the airport. The app then provides the traveler with relevant promotional offers from nearby vendors and gives them useful and timely information to take the stress out of their travel experience.

In addition to enabling smartphone users to perform specific tasks, social communication is also important. By facilitating this dialog, marketers further support an emotional connection between their brand and their customers. A recent survey by Experian shows that in the United States, about 50% of smartphone users check social apps and platforms more than 15 times per day while 76% text approximately 18 times per day. Smartphones have become tightly linked to an individual’s social activities. Based on IDC smartphone user sentiment research, being “connected” and “excited” are the top two emotional attributes associated with social and communication activities.


In contrast to smartphones, tablets are often viewed by consumers as “leisure time” devices that are often used for content consumption and entertainment. However, marketers should be aware that customers often utilize “multiple-screens” when shopping online. Customer journeys often span multiple devices, which further supports the importance of a consistent, contextually correct brand experience.

For tablets, marketers should think about the where and how shopping vs. buying occurs – currently phones outperform tablets in overall e-commerce revenues. However the average purchase amount via tablets is 20% higher. And while these purchases occur on the tablet, this usually happens in a location where a PC is also present. This is where the multi-device customer journey takes an interesting turn. In the home, where the majority of tablet use happens, the tablet regularly is the second screen to the TV. Through multi-tasking, users consume content from multiple channels and communicate socially-almost simultaneously. And all along, this happens in the relaxed setting of the home, allowing the user to easily spend the time with the brand, to explore the possibilities and continue their journey from shopping to purchasing.

As a result, marketers must go deep and develop rich, meaningful experiences that entertain, inform and, over the long run, fully engage the customer with the brand’s values. One way to accomplish this is by leveraging the tablet’s larger real estate, leading edge display and other unique attributes. For example, Ikea has regularly made their smartly designed annual catalog available on tablets and smartphones and has even incorporated videos and other media into their materials. Remarkably, this year’s catalog takes it a step further by leveraging augmented reality to help customers truly see themselves with new Ikea furniture in their actual home.

In summary

Overall, smartphones and tablets are very different in terms of user experience, usage, perceptions and content consumption. The context in which the device is used has a tremendous impact on customer experience. Mobile marketers must realize that simply publishing to a mobile device is no longer good enough and that a one-size-fits-all mobile strategy is not a viable option. Only by delivering relevant experiences that properly relate to the mobile customer, their profile, behavior, location and device (whether a smartphone or tablet), will marketers be successful in the new mobile era.


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