Mobile is increasingly becoming a more important part of consumers' lives. New data from Forrester Research out this month shows that more than five in six households have at least one mobile phone.
Forrester Research principal analyst Charles Golvin noted in the study, "The State of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2009, US," that digital is quickly pervading our lives. While today it is “constrained to the home and the office, in the next several years consumers will increasingly rely on a ubiquitous Net that is instantaneously accessible on a wide variety of devices, from mobile phones to laptops to new form factors such as eReaders.”
According to the study, 51% of consumers use phones to send or receive text messages, while 29% send or receive picture messages. Other uses include sending or receiving e-mail (18%), accessing the Internet (15%), and searching for information (8%). Additionally, the study found that 45% of regular mobile net users do so daily.
The use of mobile skewed higher for young families and couples. Combine that with the Millennial mindset that prefers discovery over pushed messages, and PR has a unique opportunity to successfully navigate the space. Yet, the PR industry is still not taking full advantage of the shift to mobile.
“We're starting to turn the corner, rather than having turned it," says Kai MacMahon, VP of digital strategy with the 360 Digital Influence Group at Ogilvy PR. "As the technology improves, as the handsets become easier to use and navigate, as the speeds of the networks pick up, then there are loads more opportunities to interact directly with consumers… Mobile stuff sounds very sexy, but the reality is that the technology hasn't really been there."
Mobile will be “the natural extension” of the PR industry's shift to online communications, adds Scott Schneider, EVP and MD of Ruder Finn Innovation Studios.
While examples of PR-driven mobile efforts are still scarce (MacMahon said Ogilvy was involved in it but declined to name examples), one ubiquitous tactic in the past year was the iPhone app.
"The iPhone apps are really one facet of an overall strategy that we have when it comes to wireless and telematics devices," Christie Hyde, PR manager for AAA tells PRWeek. "We recognize that more and more people are mobile, and they are communicating while they are mobile, and they want to interact with you while they're mobile."
John Bentz, SVP of Waggener Edstrom's global consumer marketing practice, calls AAA's work "a terrific example of how a brand stayed absolutely true to its mission and its focus, but used mobile to deepen that relationship that consumers already have with AAA."
While in Silicon Valley or New York it might seem that everyone owns an iPhone, the Forrester report noted that Apple controls only 2% of the mobile phone market, and only 8% of consumers own a smartphone.
"There is so much conversation about Apple and what they've done in the industry, and they've done an awful lot, but from a market share point-of-view, it's still pretty small,” says MacMahon.
Though the Forrester study – and others – demonstrate that mobile use will only increase, the fact that it is still developing seems to be what's stalling the PR industry from jumping in.
“My sense is that over the last six months or year or so, it's turned from a marketing touch point to a portal of content and conversation,” says Ivan Kayser, VP, digital, Hill & Knowlton. “The space is completely open, so that is the primary question, ‘What do we do now?'”