Kurt Hawks oversees strategy and operations at mobile advertising network Greystripe. With a reach of 40 million unique users through mobile app and mobile website advertising in the US, Greystripe has a solid perspective on smartphone usage and behaviors. Prior to Greystripe, Hawks was a senior associate at Monitor Ventures. Hawks spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about prominent traits and behaviors among smartphone users, and how moms, in particular, are overindexing in their smartphone usage.
eMarketer: How would you describe the behaviors and key usage habits of smartphone users?
Kurt Hawks: It makes sense to categorize them in a different class. They exhibit fundamentally different behaviors, and there are fundamentally different opportunities for marketers to reach out and engage those consumers. Think about the touch aspect of most smartphones today—it’s a completely different way to interact. Touching something is so meaningful. Touching something is almost akin to a handshake vs. a meeting over the phone. With well-crafted mobile advertising, you can deliver a brand experience right in the palm of the user’s hand.
Also unique to smartphone users is this behavior we call “snacking.” If you look around while at a coffee shop, you see people pick up their phones and start doing something, using the application, checking news. They are accessing small snippets of content all throughout the day, and we find there a lot of great ways for advertisers to reach out and engage those consumers while they are in “snacking” mode. We see the rate of content consumption increase on evenings and on weekends, whereas the internet is a little bit different. It tends to go down on the weekends.
eMarketer: What are other traits unique to smartphone users?
Hawks: Smartphone users, they have money to spend, and they’re on the go. They make informed purchasing decisions. They prefer to have free apps as opposed to paid apps. They prefer a value exchange with regard to advertising and free content.
“They are accessing small snippets of content all throughout the day, and we find there a lot of great ways for advertisers to reach out and engage those consumers while they are in ‘snacking’ mode.”
At Greystripe, our sweet spot is our full-screen interstitial ads in rich media where there’s a two-way interaction. Users always have the ability to skip our ads, by the way—we don’t do any forced views. A lot of it is about targeting and placement. If you provide the right ad to the right user at the right time, the engagement metrics are off the charts. Our immersion ads, which are experiences in which the user has the ability to interact with the ad itself, are pretty powerful.
For example, we did an in-app ad campaign with Buick that was intended to showcase the vehicle’s traction control. The ad lit up the car’s tires in different patterns, then it encouraged the user to respond by touching the tires in the same pattern. For consumers who interacted with that ad, the interaction time was a little more than 2 minutes. It got a pretty powerful response rate, as well as significant brand lift, intention to purchase, brand recall, and aided and unaided awareness metrics.
eMarketer: Are you seeing better returns with in-app ads?
Hawks: A lot of it depends on the type of offer, and the type of targeting, and the experience you’re trying to provide. With an immersion type of ad, since it is in-application, we can do a lot of more complicated and interesting things. We tend to find those types of ads work better in an application environment. If it’s a static ad or even a video ad, a lot of it has to do with the targeting and the placement. Across our network we take all the data we’ve gathered over the past several years and use that to both target and optimize the campaign.
“I think smartphones will become the center of a consumer’s home entertainment....It’s the digital life link and the digital hub, and you’re only going to see it become more pervasive.”
eMarketer: What mistakes do marketers make when targeting users on their smartphones?
Hawks: Sometimes we will see advertisers just doing a mobile buy without a real indication of how they’re going to evaluate the success of the campaign. It’s important for brands to think about their overall objectives—what they’re trying to do with the mobile campaign—and find the appropriate mobile advertising products that can help achieve that objective. Campaigns are most successful when marketers set the objectives up front, and find the mobile-advertising partner to help craft the right media plan to achieve those objectives and execute against that media plan.
eMarketer: How do you predict smartphone users will behave in two years or more? What will be the biggest changes?
Hawks: Smartphone users are going to become more and more pervasive. The rate of adoption is already massive, and the devices are getting more capable. Network bandwidth is getting better, so content consumption will go up. I think smartphones will become the center of a consumer’s home entertainment—instead of using a remote control, they will use a smartphone to control their Apple TV or their cable service. They’ll use it to control their home surveillance systems, their home alarms, their lighting. It’s the digital life link and the digital hub, and you’re only going to see it become more pervasive.
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