Building Mobility

By Christine Pierpoint

I don’t think anyone would question a declaration that mobile is huge in the US. In fact, the Pew Research Center published a study in July that found that 35% of American adults have a smartphone and 87% of them use their smartphone to access the internet. Moreover, a quarter of them use their mobile device exclusively to access the web.

Mobile devices, such as iPhones, Blackberries and tablet PCs are popular primarily because they offer convenience. Gaming and social networking are among the top uses for mobile devices, but commerce and context-aware apps (apps that automatically suggest related products or content based on the user’s preferences) are becoming more common based on Gartner’s predictions through 2012.

As marketers, the big question is deciding what to do about the growing mobile trend. If you’re not providing mobile content, are you at risk of alienating a significant portion of your audience? Here are a couple of factors to consider when developing your mobile strategy.

Mobile App or Website?

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Image from The New York Times

The Mobile App market exploded in 2010 with Apple reaching the 10 billion download milestone. Branded apps, like the Sherwin-Williams Color Snap and the Virtual Zippo Lighter are some of the most popular downloads of all time. Apps are becoming more popular in our space.

Not only are the product manufacturers creating apps to connect with their customers, but trade publishers, trade shows and home builders are using apps to create better experiences for their audiences and extend their content.  The  CONEXPO-CON/AGG and Showrooms apps are two great examples while Tradeshow Insight also has a list of 5 iPhone apps for your next trade show. However, if you’re hoping to have the next big hit, it is important to keep expectations realistic and take into account that more than 80 percent of apps are downloaded less than 1,000 times, according to Delloite. App development can be costly, so a decision to invest in an app should be weighted against the potential return.

As an alternative, consider a mobile website. The difference is that an app is a standalone application that has to be downloaded for use. A mobile website, in contrast, is a site that is optimized for viewing on a mobile device. For example, if you pull up on your smartphone, the images and content are easy to see and use. In contrast, sites that require you to zoom in to view a page are not considered mobile friendly. At the very least, your organization should have a mobile version of your website to make it easier for customers to view and engage with your brand while on the go.

QR Codes

Quick Response, or QR codes, are becoming a popular way of connecting with smartphone users. According to ComScore, 14 million Americans scanned a QR code in the month of June and nearly 40% of those consumers did so at a retail store. This mobile shopping trend puts power in the hands of consumers to compare products and search best pricing while at the point of purchase. If you’re going to use a QR code in print collateral or on packaging, have a strategy that will reward customers for taking the time to scan your code. Linking the code to a mobile website is a default option, but puts the onus on the customer to then browse the site looking for information. Instead, consider linking the code to a specific call-to-action like an instant coupon, a ‘how to’ video or a product comparison. These thoughtful actions can make the difference when consumers are actively seeking information at the point-of purchase.


Mobile devices come with built-in GPS, which creates opportunities to provide information and incentives based on the individual’s global position. This can work in different ways. One is to create a ‘check in’ incentive by partnering with a popular service like FourSquare. In this scenario, customers who use their smartphone to check in at a store location can earn rewards for coming in.

Alternately, location-based programs can be used to help your customers find where to buy products. For example, a contractor on a job site who needs a specific brand of ceramic tile could use an app to know where the closest distributor is located and even let him know if they have a particular tile in stock. Home Depot is one brand that has already launched an app that does this specific job.

Using location-based technology is a good way for building product manufacturers to drive traffic to their distributor partners and for retailers to reward loyal customers.

Overall, mobile devices create several new possibilities for marketing to B2B and consumer audiences alike. As people become more dependent on their smartphones and tablets to access information, businesses who ignore mobile will miss opportunities to capture market share and may risk alienating customers. This is true even in the building industry, where these tools are becoming more and more relevant, and used, because of the opportunity to increase productivity through more efficient operations. How does mobile play a part in your marketing mix?

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