What is Mobile Marketing? Best Practices, Tools, and FAQs

sms marketing software

Mobile devices have taken over our lives. 

Don’t worry, this isn’t an anti-technology think piece. In 2021, people in the US spent an average of 4 hours and 23 minutes on their phones each day—not including any time they spent actually talking on the phone.  

Moreover, mobile devices are increasingly the consumers’ home base for researching and purchasing products. Mobile ecommerce sales hit more than $360 billion in 2021, and it’s expected to nearly double by 2025.

Even offline purchases are influenced by mobile experiences. About 46% of people use their mobile phones to search for product information while in the store.

Translation: no business can afford to overlook the importance of mobile marketing.

This article will cover what mobile marketing is and why it’s so important. Then we’ll explain how to create mobile campaigns and what tools you might need. We’ll finish with some frequently asked questions on mobile marketing.

Table of contents

What is mobile marketing?

Mobile marketing is any marketing that takes place on a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet. This includes web browsing, ads, social media, emails viewed, texts, push notifications, and more. Unlike a desktop or laptop, most people have their phones on them at all times.

Much like the term “digital marketing,” mobile marketing is a broad but essential category of promotion. It can also encompass many marketing channels. However someone uses their phone, brands can find ways to reach them.

Smartphone with email, texts, social media
Types of mobile marketing

While some mobile marketing functions similarly to marketing through a laptop or desktop computer, there are additional possibilities. For example, location-based marketing uses the location-tracking capabilities of mobile devices to send messages. 

Advertising in apps or mobile games is another way for brands to reach mobile users. For example, a retail app could send a push notification when a customer comes within a half-mile of the brand’s storefront. Even brands without apps can stay in touch via text messages (sometimes called SMS marketing).  

In-app, in-game, and text messages often use deep linking, which is when users are linked to a specific location or page in an app or website. Deep linking is one way that brands can improve the user experience and expedite the buying process.

For instance, if someone sees and clicks on an ad for running shoes while playing a mobile game, the shoe brand can use a deep link to direct the customer to the individual product page instead of their homepage. 

Benefits of mobile marketing 

There are tons of benefits to mobile marketing. Here are just a few of the biggest reasons to focus on mobile.

Greater access to customers

Mobile marketing gives you greater access to your customer base. 

Whether you’re targeting nature enthusiasts, students, busy professionals, or anyone else, there’s a good chance they’re carrying a mobile device. 97% of Americans have a cell phone, and 85% have a smartphone. If you’re not targeting customers there, you can bet your competition is.

Personalized customer experiences

Creating a more intimate and personalized customer experience is another benefit of mobile marketing. Many mobile marketing channels, like social media, have tons of user data, allowing them to offer highly targeted advertising. 

Smartphone showing discount code text
SMS marketing (Image Source)

Furthermore, communicating through a mobile device, which customers use to connect with friends and family, can create a more personal feel. 

However, brands should be careful not to become intrusive. One survey found that 3 in 10 mobile users had received spam from companies they’d never contacted, and 25% said they’d found the timing of mobile ads inconvenient.

Cross-device customer engagement

Because it offers greater access and a more personal feel, mobile marketing is a powerful way to attract and nurture customer relationships. But it also works hand-in-hand with more traditional marketing methods. 

With more and more people using multiple devices during the buying process, mobile marketing also supports purchases made in-person and on desktop computers. 

Mobile marketing is still a key step in the buying process, even if a customer isn’t purchasing their phone. People use their phones to research products while in a store. They may research products on their desktop and then look for discounts on social media. 

How to get started with mobile marketing

Now that you know what mobile marketing is, here are some simple steps to implement or upgrade your mobile marketing strategy.

1. Begin with responsive design

Whether using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, your target audience should be able to view and navigate your site easily.

The most basic step to succeed in mobile marketing is ensuring your website and emails are mobile-responsive. This means they’re designed to look good on any device.

Website displayed on desktop, tablet, phone
Website displayed on desktop, tablet, phone

Having a responsive site is also important for making your content appealing to search engines. Since more than half of web browsing is done on a mobile device, Google performs mobile-first indexing, meaning they crawl the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking. Load time is also important to mobile SEO, so part of building a mobile-optimized site is testing and improving site speed.

Along with browsing your website, many potential customers will open your emails on a mobile device, so the emails must be responsive too. That’s why ActiveCampaign’s new responsive email designer was developed to make it easy to build beautiful emails across all devices.

2. Access mobile marketing channels

After ensuring your website and emails are mobile-ready, you can expand to other important mobile marketing channels. You may already be using some of these: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other social media platforms.

However, depending on your audience, it might make more sense to use other apps or even mobile games. For example, while Americans cling to SMS text messages, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app worldwide and might be the better choice for some businesses. 

Hand holding smartphone with WhatsApp Business
WhatsApp marketing (Image Source)

For example, Dalton is an auto dealership with 22 locations throughout Mexico. With more than 74 million WhatsApp users in Mexico, Dalton started using mobile messaging apps to collect and engage with leads. With ActiveCampaign, they could automate both emails and WhatsApp messages for different deal stages. 

Social media is another powerful mobile marketing tool. In fact, 82% of respondents said they had discovered a product on social media and purchased it from their phones. The most popular social channels for shopping are Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. 

Retail businesses and restaurants can use apps like Foursquare and Yelp to reach mobile users and encourage customer engagement. Knowing how valuable these channels are, many businesses post QR codes and invite mobile users to check in and leave reviews while they shop or eat.

3. Create omnichannel experiences

Because mobile marketing spans so many different channels, it’s inherently multi-channel. But the next step is to create omnichannel experiences. Omnichannel marketing is when you use multiple different channels to create a consistent and cohesive experience. 

For example, if someone views a product without buying it, a brand could deploy retargeting ads to bring the user back to the site. Or if a shopper places a product in their cart but doesn’t complete the purchase, the brand could send an email reminding them of their abandoned cart. 

Across the ecommerce site, advertising platform, and email, the brand’s mobile marketing strategy is creating a cohesive experience driving the user toward a conversion.

Abandoned cart email workflow
Abandoned cart email workflow

Omnichannel marketing means that your tools need to be able to talk to each other. ActiveCampaign, for instance, has 870+ integrations with ecommerce platforms, social media, advertisers, and more. This allows you to create sophisticated mobile marketing campaigns that strategically engage customers.

Mobile marketing examples

Let’s look at some examples of mobile marketing campaigns to see how it works in real scenarios. 

Responsive email to responsive site

Let’s say a past customer is sitting in the airport waiting for their flight to board. They pull out their phone and check their email. When they open yours, they see a beautiful mobile-responsive email promoting your new product and decide to tap through. 

Because you used deep linking, they arrive right on the product’s page, which is also responsively designed. The website loads quickly, and the smartphone user progresses to the checkout page and completes the transaction. 

A mobile-responsive email and web experience makes it easy for customers to go from opening their inbox to making a purchase in just a few minutes.

Location-based push notifications

Clothing retailer Kohl’s engages mobile users with an app where they can browse products, make purchases, and collect reward points. 

Creating an app like this is a form of mobile marketing, but Kohl’s takes it further by using geo-targeting. Geo-targeting is when businesses use location data from mobile devices to send messages or push notifications.

Sample of Geo-targeting
Sample of Geo-targeting (Image Source)

A repeat customer is visiting another store in the same shopping center when she gets a push notification from Kohls’s. It’s a coupon that’s good for up to 40% off. She wasn’t planning on stopping by the clothing store, but since she’s nearby and has a coupon, she enters the store and makes a couple of spontaneous purchases.

QR code at convention

A company is participating in an industry convention. They have a booth set up with a QR code prominently displayed. When someone opens the camera on their smartphone and scans the QR code, it takes them to a custom-made landing page for the event.

Person scanning QR code
Marketing with QR codes

When people at the convention stop to talk to the representative, he can focus on engaging with people instead of trying to hand out flyers or brochures. Instead of asking people to write down their email address, he directs them to use the QR code, where they can enter their information on the landing page. One person passing by is interested in the booth but is running late for an appointment, so they quickly scan the code and open the page on their phone to learn more later.

At the end of the day, the representative doesn’t have to enter customer information manually, and they can follow up immediately with an email.

Mobile search ads

For our last example, let’s consider someone leaving work and finding their car doesn’t start. After several minutes of frustration, they pull out their smartphone and search for the phrase “tow truck near me.” 

At the very top of the search engine results page is a text ad for a local auto towing and repair shop. The mobile user taps the ad and arrives at the auto shop website, where they can request a tow truck online or by phone call. 

Google search text ad for towing
Google search text ad for towing

Along with creating ads the right size for mobile display, brands can also target keywords that people are more likely to use on a mobile device. For example, many people use voice recognition features like Siri to search on mobile devices, which results in search queries that use more natural language and full questions.

Mobile marketing tools 

Your mobile marketing strategy is deeply affected by the marketing tools you use every day (CMS, email, marketing automation). Determining how a platform or tool supports your mobile marketing efforts should be part of your buying process.

You can start by looking at your content management system (CMS). All your content should display well on desktop, mobile, and tablet screens. Be sure to check for CTAs that are easy to find and tap.

Your email marketing solution is another key tool for mobile marketing. Just like your website or blog, your emails should be easy to read, navigate, and engage with. 

ActiveCampaign’s intuitive email builder gives you the power to create beautiful emails that are always responsive easily. With over 250 free and customizable templates, you can go from idea to inbox faster than ever.

ActiveCampaign email designer interface
ActiveCampaign email designer interface

Mobile marketing moves fast.

Choose a marketing automation platform that allows you to deliver the right content at the right time. For example, in ActiveCampaign, you can create automated workflows to reach mobile users who abandoned their cart before purchasing.

Better yet, ActiveCampaign lets you manage your email marketing, SMS, and chat communications in one platform. Because ActiveCampaign integrates with social media, user behaviors on social media can trigger follow-up actions on other channels. 

Automated text reminder workflow
Automated text reminder workflow

Considering that 58% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, brands need to consider mobile performance whenever they choose a tool or platform.

Frequently asked questions 

Here we cover some of the most common questions about mobile marketing.

What does mobile marketing mean?

Mobile marketing refers to any marketing that takes place on a mobile device, most commonly smartphones and tablets. This could include ads, emails, texts, app-based marketing, etc. Mobile marketing is how you reach people on their mobile devices.

What are the types of mobile marketing?

Mobile marketing encompasses many different channels. Some of the same types of marketing used on desktop computers are also used for mobile marketing: web browsing and advertising, email, search engine optimization, and social media. Text (or SMS) messages, push notifications, and in-game advertising are other mobile marketing techniques.

What is the process of mobile marketing?

Mobile marketing is an ongoing process of content creation, publication, learning, and adjusting. Making sure your website and emails are mobile-responsive is a good first step. From there, you can add other mobile marketing channels. When all those different marketing channels work together to create a consistent customer experience, you create an omnichannel marketing experience.

What is the goal of mobile marketing?

The goal of mobile marketing is the same as your overall marketing goal: to maximize engagement and increase sales. With mobile marketing, brands use mobile channels to reach new audiences, build customer relationships, and influence customers to become repeat buyers and brand advocates.

Marketing has gone mobile

Mobile marketing is already here, and it’s not going anywhere. You’re probably already using some mobile strategies, but you can upgrade your efforts even further with a more comprehensive understanding of the field.

Optimizing the mobile experience on your website and emails is the most important step you can take. From there, you can build a more complete experience by reaching mobile users through text, social media, apps, and more. 

The right tools will make it easier to create omnichannel marketing experiences through mobile devices. Look for solutions that allow you to create effective marketing experiences across different mobile channels.
Start a free trial today to see how ActiveCampaign can help you implement a mobile marketing strategy for your business.