Why commuters' idle thumbs work best for mobile ads
It's an old adage within the marketing industry that not all customers were made equal, and that's particularly true of commuters, where getting the bus or train into work is now a prime opportunity to check our smartphones and tablets to catch up on the latest news, gossip and games. With the average number of devices set to exceed four per person by 2020, we're increasingly reliant on the small screen, and at no time more so than when we have some time to kill on-the-go.
If you're not 'on-board' with this digital shift in media consumption or don't plan to be – I'd stop reading now. But if you're an ambitious business with high growth targets and a clear sales objectives, your ears should certainly be pricking up. The commuter audience is a highly connected and available audience, and it's these eyes at these times which will stand to convert the most sales leads on your campaigns.
Understanding your audience: the early bird catches the worm
Almost 90% of consumers admit to browsing and buying on smartphones and tablets during their commute with over half expecting to shop even more during this time in the future. So reaching the right person with the right message at the right time between early morning and after 5pm is now invaluable to your operational longevity, and it's critical to be able to pinpoint exactly when that is in order to get the best result; commuters have various stages of browsing behaviours; for instance when bored and browsing as opposed to when they have a definite purpose, such as buying a certain piece of music and so less susceptible to additional distraction.
Elsewhere, there is a natural variation on activity which is preferred by commuters inside and outside of London, with research revealing that 20 per cent use their device to read online news and 25% to play games via apps such as Farmville or Candy Crush in the capital, over a third higher than those further afield. Internet browsing, social media and streaming video content also scored highly, to be expected, and London bus users were found to be the most social, with less than 10 per cent logging on to work systems during this time and empowered with better signal leading to greater use of social and leisure based applications.
Plugging into the consumer psyche
So, once your target audience is identified, and when, how can you best connect with them? It's all about programmatic trading; buying ad-space in real-time using data-led computer algorithms, to reach exactly the right user at the right time with the right content for optimum engagement – consumers are using their devices in rush hour, while commuting – and programmatic will help you specifically target the right people during these times.
Sounds like a 'no-brainer' right? Programmatic tools have increasingly been embraced by many, but many more are still reluctant or uncertain about its benefits. This is largely due to a lack of understanding of mobile ad exchanges and their benefits with over 40% of marketers admitting they still "don't have a clue" what programmatic actually means. Understandably, it's in many marketers' interests to avoid taking a chance on new technologies, with many taking a risk adverse attitude to doing so, and preferring the more established ROI they derive from traditional media. However, these individuals could find themselves redundant in a few years' time, replaced by their more mobile-savvy, and dynamic peers – those that understand when their audience needs to find something to entertain them whilst on the bus or the train, and just so happens to serve them a targeted ad at that time.
Mobile devices are set to keep rocketing in popularity, with vendors and networks collaborating to increase connectivity and availability of services whenever and where ever you are. And transport companies know this. Just take for example The London Underground, which is investing rapidly in a Wi-Fi programme, rolling out internet services to over 150 stations across the capital. People want their phones on the go and it's becoming easier for them to get online anywhere – even when underground!
There's clearly a real opportunity here for marketers to reach huge and highly available audiences - provided they take the correct approach to mobile advertising. So, with all that in mind, its never been a better time to join the crowd and connect with your target consumer. As I said above, marketers need to understand their customers – and realising when they are looking for entertainment on the move and taking steps to reach them at those times could be your rush hour jackpot.