Smartphone Conversions: The Uncrossable Chasm

Monday we ran my video talking about how TV ads don’t matter anymore, largely because of changing viewing habits. Tuesday morning, I came in and saw a chart from eMarketer showing that 96 percent of Americans go online while watching TV, 79 percent from smartphones. Hallelujah! All of those viewers can respond to your TV ads! … If it worked that way, I certainly wouldn’t be making videos about how TV ads don’t matter.

On the payment side, this is why digital wallets are such a priority for the smartphone OS makers, manufacturers, and credit card companies alike. There’s a very, very large fortune to be made for the company that can convince a majority of users and vendors to adopt their technology (and pay their fees). But right now, that space is as fractured as it can possibly be.

By far the most reliable way to get conversions on smartphones is to get users to download your (well-designed and executed) e-commerce app. But unless you’re Amazon, you can probably only count on your best customers to engage like that.

Maybe They’re Just Not That Into You

That gets into the other thing dragging down smartphone conversions, especially from TV: They’re probably using the phone to avoid your ads in the first place.

When I’m on my phone while watching TV, a lot of the time I’m only tangentially paying attention to the show we’re watching, let alone the commercials in between. Whether I’m talking on Facebook, playing a game or watching YouTube, I’m actually making myself extra “busy” (if not quite productive). That makes it a terrible time to try to get my attention and convince me to take an action for you. “I can’t check out your offer, I have to finish telling my buddy he’s an idiot before the show comes back on!”

If you’ve been reading my blogs and editor’s notes for a while, you might remember me speaking pretty strongly in favor of QR Codes and augmented reality based on my belief that something, anything, has to connect the mobile phone to IRL marketing. The need seems so obvious, I can’t believe nobody’s filled it yet.

As the years have gone by, nothing’s really asserted itself as that bridge. I have to admit it’s not looking good. The biggest obstacle appears to be not technology, but user interest. People came to hate QR Codes, just ask Scott Stratten.

QR Codes, AR, Shazam, etc. have all been successful in more limited applications. But as a widely used bridge from the TV and other traditional media to the online world … Well, many people have built it, and “they” haven’t come.

In all the generic talk about noise, fractured media and distracted consumers, I think sometimes we miss the canyon in the room. You can break through the clutter with good marketing, and you can get customers through your sales funnel with good UX design. … But the smartphone conversion chasm is going to continue to be an issue for a long time.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

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