Maybe you’ve seen more of them during your Christmas shopping jaunts at the neighborhood mall this holiday season than you did last year; people using smartphones while in stores to do Web searches on products, price comparisons, or even to place orders.
It’s a sight that Google hopes will soon be as prevalent as bell-ringing Santas in front of Salvation Army kettles, thanks to its decision Monday to extend its AdWords product to the iPhone, T-Mobile G1 and any mobile device that allows HTML Web browsing.
“This new option will now allow you to display your ads specifically on these devices, create exclusive campaigns for them, and get separate performance reporting,” wrote Amanda Kelly on the Google Inside AdWords Blog. “Unlike standard mobile ads, you don’t need to format your ads for mobile phones to show your ads on the G1 and iPhone. Because the G1 and iPhone have full Internet browsers, you’ll be able to display your standard AdWords ads and landing pages on these devices without having to modify them.”
Mobile searches tend to increase during the holiday season, Kelly notes. The iPhone sent more mobile searches worldwide to Google.com during Christmas 2007 than any other mobile platform. It’s hoping that advertisers will pay attention to that data point as well.
The Target Audience
Google tried to begin an ambitious program to push most of its advertisers to mobile platforms last year, but pulled back from that because of user experience issues and a perceived lack of value, noted Greg Sterling, founder of Market Intelligence. “Now fast forward a year, and the mobile Internet has developed more fully,” Sterling told the E-Commerce Times. “Google itself is seeing a lot of traffic, and everyone is taking mobile marketing much more seriously. The consumer usage of the mobile Internet has gotten to the point where it’s a real thing now, where it wasn’t a year ago.”
Despite that growth in consumer mobile browsing, Sterling doesn’t believe that the AdWords move will result in significant short-term revenue gains for Google, particularly as the economic environment forces all advertisers to make tough spending decisions. “But it will build toward a future, maybe in a few as five years, where there are some meaningful advertising dollars going into mobile. This will help to educate the advertiser and lay the foundation for them.”
Yahoo and Microsoft have already begun mobile marketing initiatives and advertising ecosystems with varying degrees of success, Sterling also points out. Google’s position as the top search engine, however — and its role as a magnet for media coverage — helps lend a certain credibility to the notion of spending more money on mobile ads, especially among Google’s own advertisers. “Their own base of advertisers is the immediate target audience for this, but that’s not the only audience.”
The Future of Mobile Marketing
The concepts that more people will use a phone as a primary Internet connection device, rather than a PC or a laptop, is not that far-fetched for Sterling. It is already on the what-if radar for tech companies like Google, therefore it should also be for advertisers.
“What we do have is a very interesting developing situation where you have increasing mobile access, and that means new and interesting advertising opportunities which didn’t exist online, because of your location and proximity to point of sale — because mobile devices are with a person,” Sterling said. “There are some very interesting nuances and wrinkles that mobile will add to digital marketing, which don’t occur on the Internet, because you can’t take a PC or a laptop into the store with you.”