Bold Futures: Five Trends Shaping Mobile Marketing in 2018

Digital marketing’s narrative is shifting; we are in the era of the mobile-to-offline (M2O) experience.

For mobile marketing, every year brings change. Technology drives change. Consumers and their evolving expectations fuel transformation industrywide. Year to year, the very nature of publishing, advertising, and marketing evolves. Strategies grow, capabilities expand, and digital marketing’s focus is more and more reliant upon the relationships and engagements that users experience on the screens of their mobile devices.

Within all this change, we find trends. As we navigate the shifts and turns of 2018, recognizing the following trends — and trends can be constants amid change as well, as some of these assuredly are — will help us build on the growth that’s underway. In each instance, the concepts below point us boldly into the future that digital marketing is working to create.


CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT WILL DOMINATE MOBILE STRATEGIES. Mobile is not only the future for today’s consumer — it is the way they already live: 257 million of the 275 million who use the Internet access it via mobile devices, according to eMarketer. And this uptake is hardly confined to Western consumers. More people interact with the Internet via mobile in China than in the US, Brazil, and Indonesia combined. Across all this adoption, consumers expect highly personalized experiences on their devices and in all aspects of mobile — on owned apps, on their social feeds, in all other apps that they are using on a day-in and day-out basis. Digital marketers have a central task before them: to prioritize and make primary CRM in the mobile space. If our focus isn’t there, we’re not crafting the most important part of the consumer’s journey and on-screen story.

THE COOKIE IS DEAD (OR AT LEAST DYING). Mobile device IDs are the future. Cookies can’t deliver the power and effectiveness of device IDs. Some hybrid scenarios will putter along, and some scale-hungry players will stick to old tech for a bit longer, but smart marketers are investing in customer data platforms that are mobile first, connecting CRM directly to the mobile device either through a brand’s mobile app or household-based matching. Device IDs will become increasingly central to consumer-identity management and master-data management. DMPs and CDPs will all need a robust mobile device ID management and intelligence layer to best connect with consumers in today’s context. “Mobile device IDs are the future.”

IT IS (STILL) THE “AGE OF THE PLATFORM.” For digital marketers, mobile is about platforms that can enable different types of activation — platforms that can offer flexibility for data management, insights, audience development, targeting, in-store activation, paid media activation, and measurement. Platforms enable organizations to respond as consumers and technology evolve, and they ensure brands that their recent investments can be further leveraged (rather than discarded). Back in 2012, analysts announced the “Age of the Platform.” The same pronouncement stands true today: The UX for advertisers, publishers, and marketers is still the correct focus, and the right emphasis, in 2018.

MOBILE CREATIVE CONTINUES TO DEMAND THE SPOTLIGHT. From a creative standpoint, mobile experiences must hit the mark every single time. With so little real estate on the small screen, the future of creative for mobile is not about slapping an ad over content and treating the user’s screen like a launch pad. The future is about inventive design that partners with technology to augment user activities and draw consumers close. Marketing must intersect with the consumer instead of interrupting their underlying content; that’s a major difference, going forward, between positive and negative creative for mobile.

5G WILL CHANGE THE MOBILE WORLD. As MIT Technology Review puts it, the shift from 4G LTE to 5G will be like jumping from typewriters to word processors. Everything our industry predicts, when it comes to the Internet of Things and AR and VR, will be fundamentally accelerated by 5G’s vast interconnected world of sensors and digital experiences. 5G is the doorway we’ll walk through to live in the future — data rich and data capable in ways we haven’t experienced before. Our response must be all-encompassing, from the ways we collect, analyze, and report on campaigns to the ceilings we set for mobile creative in a faster, more dynamic, increasingly sensor-first space. 102


The overarching change that emerges from all these trends and evolutions? Digital marketing’s narrative is shifting away from its historical focus on online-to-offline (O2O) journeys, and we are in the era of the mobile-to-offline (M2O) experience.

And all the factors we’ve just considered will change and prompt growth in our industry. Every brand, marketer, and publisher will need to pivot to meet these changes in 2018. The long-term story of marketing in the digital space will depend on them going forward.


Julie Bernard is Verve’s chief marketing officer.

This story first appeared in ‘Statistical Fact Book: The Ultimate Source for Data-Driven Marketing Insight’ (DMA, 2018)

More Stories