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Mobile advertising is a big business. This year, in the US, advertisers will spend $28.72 billion to reach their targets on mobile devices, eMarketer estimates, an increase of 50.0% over 2014 spending levels. But—as is common with so many digital advertising channels that offer the promise of measurability and ever-increasing efficacy—performance measurement is still a challenge.
An April 2015 Millward Brown Digital survey asked US marketers about which media channels they would increase spending in if they could track return on investment (ROI) better. Nearly eight in 10 said mobile, more than any other choice, including traditional media, typically considered less measurable than digital.
Respondents to a March 2015 Signal survey were significantly less likely to say they could collect and integrate data from mobile with other digital channels. Worldwide, 66% of marketers said they could do this with mobile web data—far below the 88% who said the same of web data or the 76% who said the same of email—and an even smaller 37% agreed when it came to mobile app data.
Of course, that doesn’t mean marketers aren’t measuring on mobile—or trying to calculate ROI. Among agencies surveyed worldwide by Econsultancy in February 2015, 38% said mobile marketing had excellent or good ROI; 35% of client-side marketers said the same. In January, US marketers polled by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric reported a median 12% to 14% ROI for mobile.
Mobile marketers report using a variety of metrics to track their efforts. Client-side marketers worldwide surveyed by Econsultancy in March about mobile app success most commonly reported using number of downloads (76%), followed by recurrent usage (48%), time spent (41%) and revenues or leads generated (40%). 2015 research by InMobi about how marketers measured mobile native ad effectiveness found an emphasis on clickthrough rates (56% of respondents worldwide), engagement rate (51%), conversion rate (45%) and cost per conversion (40%). Among business-to-business marketers surveyed worldwide by Regalix in May, 79% tracked web traffic, 71% social media sharing, and 64% clickthrough rates on their mobile marketing efforts. And according to comScore, last year brand lift metrics for mobile ads ranged from a low of 2.5% lift in aided awareness to a high of 4.3% lift in both likelihood to recommend and purchase intent.
Despite all this, and despite the fact that most client-side marketers surveyed by Econsultancy in March said they knew what share of their traffic was coming from mobile, and what types of devices their customers were using, being able to track customers across devices and understanding the differences between smartphone and tablet behaviors were lacking.
Many metrics across a range of mobile marketing types suggest that the ROI is there. Adobe Digital Index reported that in Q1 2015, there were more digital video ad starts per video start worldwide on tablets (2.8) and smartphones (2.4) than on the desktop (2.0). Similarly, FreeWheel reported that pre-roll video ads in the US were more likely to be viewed to completion on tablets and smartphones than on the desktop (though mid-roll ads performed slightly worse on smartphones).
Viewability measurement on mobile has some issues, but according to Sizmek, again for Q1 2015, while Flash display ads worldwide were more viewable on the desktop, HTML5 display ads were more viewable on mobile.
When it comes to email, despite consumers’ high propensity to check their email on mobile devices, clicking—and converting—is another question. While Yesmail reported Q1 2015 click-to-open rates in the US were higher on mobile than the desktop for the insurance, consumer services and technology industries, for example, all other verticals had the opposite experience.
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