How mobile has continued to remain resilient despite COVID-19 budget cuts

The year 2020 has been a difficult one for the global economy and India was no different. Budget cuts across sectors have resulted in marketers looking for new ways to get through this time and sustain. Affordability and efficiency have become of utmost importance while formulating media plans and every brand is looking to make the most of every buck spent.

The pandemic saw digital activity increasing across sectors with even traditional brands joining the digital race. Projected growth of the digital sector for the next two years was achieved during the lockdown months and now, digital and mobile takes a bigger slice of the media pie.

Mobile penetration in the nation has been continuously growing and according to a KPMG report, the reach is estimated to be 820 million by 2022. In rural India, the penetration has increased to 25% from 9% in 2015.

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While more Indians using smartphones now more than ever, marketers are understanding the importance of this platform. As smartphones are personal devices, they allow brands to reach out to consumer directly and provide products and solutions according to the likes and dislikes of the consumer. Mobile Ad Spends has grown by 5% in 2020 and constitutes 59.8% of total digital ad spends.

Speaking on the qualities of mobile marketing and the WhatsApp Pay update, Niraj Ruparel, Head of Mobile & Emerging Tech, GroupM India; Head of Voice, WPP India, said, “The fact that mobile’s reach in terms of both smartphone penetration and data usage skyrocketed before COVID, has given brands direct access to talk to its consumers. The humungous reach, coupled with many customisations, is the biggest quality of mobile for brands.

During the pandemic, usage of WhatsApp to place orders to your nearby mom-and-pop store has become a very common user behaviour. With automation, large brands can also leverage the power of this channel and target consumers for commerce. With the WhatsApp Pay feature being green-lit recently, there will be a huge boost to end to end purchase driven by WhatsApp.”

One of the key qualities of mobile that attract marketers is the sheer versatility of the platform. With thousands of tech and tools advancements like Geo-targeting, AR, VR and AI, marketers are given several options to carry out their communication strategy in the optimum way for the brand. As social media and OTT consumption further grows, the tech supports marketers to create the best communication for maximum ROI. People today are using apps more than ever. The lockdown has only facilitated that number for mobile apps.

Providing some stats, Shubham Jha, Sales Manager India, Adjust, said, “Adjust’s annual App Trends 2020 report showed that gaming apps saw a large uptick in installs: in the last week of March, the vertical saw an 132% increase in the number of installs compared to last year. Gaming apps also saw a 47% increase in sessions in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019.”

While downloads and consumption increases, understanding this user behaviour becomes extremely important for brands and platforms as they look to provide the right communication with an optimum experience for the users.

Giving the perspective of Merkle Sokrati, its CEO Anubhav Sonthalia, said, “As the user attention span remains premium, Merkle Sokrati is innovating through its user insights, machine learning prowess and global partnerships. We now have mobile-first offerings across the marketing value chain, including abilities to personalise ad communication and creatives at scale and high-frequency bidding engine integrated with insights from user actions on the respective mobile app. We are also piloting ways to engage with users during spare time, for example, playing leisure games, and building full Customer Experience (CX) tech stack including UI/UX for apps, attribution and measurement, post-install user engagement and loyalty.”

Sonthalia further said, “Even before the pandemic, advertising spends on mobile devices were expected to grow by 41% to reach a share of 52% of the overall digital advertising market, overtaking spends on desktop. Spends on mobile devices are projected to reach a share of 64% of digital ad spends by 2022, as marketers target consumers glued to their mobile device.”

Commenting on the mobile spends, Amit Gupta, Managing Director, Httpool India, said, “Mobile has taken over as a strategic role within media planning. As compared to earlier times when mobile marketing was just an extension of the overall campaign, now we see a mobile-first strategy by the advertisers. This has pushed service providers like us to hire more sales producers who can think and advise clients on campaign execution. According to market reports, mobile marketing spends are expected to exceed more than half of the overall digital spending in 2020.”

The digital and mobile sector has been a saviour for many in these dark times. While many communication channels suffered during the pandemic, brands were still looking to stay relevant, reach out to newer audiences in an affordable and organic way. With all the options mentioned above, mobile advertising became extremely important for brands during this time to communicate with the target group. Metrics of engagement and consumer behaviour have further helped brands solidify their ROI.

Giving a clear perspective on this, Rita Sahajpaul, Head of Product & Marketing Science, Xaxis India, observed, “The pandemic has been a difficult time for brands and consumers alike. Now, more than ever, measuring ROI for every marketing dollar spent is important. Thus, marketers are, of course, looking to reach, engage and potentially convert maximum consumers at lowest costs possible.”

According to Sahajpaul, “Top of the funnel reach goals are:

Mobile media is successful in delivering high reach at low costs in a premium, brand safe and high-quality video, gaming or news environment which is highly viewable and assures high completion rates.

Mid-funnel engagement & consideration goals: Mobile media also provides plenty of contextually relevant native environments, Gaming, Audio and rich media formats which guarantee high engagement and quality of interaction with the consumers.

Lower funnel acquisition goals: With advanced MMP, achieving quality Installs that focus on the retention rates or post install In-app events is important. Advanced attribution platforms also allow for brands to measure cross-device media activity. Brands engaging in a D2C model are also to measure advanced basket value analysis with ROAS as the key KPI.”

Further adding on the marketing spends on mobile, Gupta noted, “Though there has been a good surge in marketing spending on mobile, specific verticals like e-commerce, online education & OTTs have been the obvious ones benefiting from the pandemic. Their customer acquisition costs have gone down from 30-50% and volumes have grown to 3X-5X in specific categories (InMobi report). A rapid increase in new users and an increase in content consumption during the pandemic has helped this growth. This is mostly because mobile marketing is also highly trackable and measurable.”

With such positive numbers and constant growth further accelerated by the pandemic, mobile staying resilient during this time is only an understatement. The sector continues to grow with further technological advancements and also supports the growth of other sectors.

Giving some future predictions for mobile spends, Sahajpaul said, “The year 2021 is expected to see 38% growth in mobile ad-spends, leading to $1.62 billion in total ad-spends. By 2024, mobile ad-spends will be 66.8% of the total digital ad spends, around $2. 83 billion.”


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