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When I was offered the opportunity to moderate the table on Mobile Marketing at Digital Cream Dubai, I couldn’t think of a single reason to not be there; it isn’t every day I’d get to sit down on a table with 10 client side marketers and hear about their pains and pleasure of doing mobile. And it really was equal parts both. 

There were a lot of insights that came in from the three roundtables featuring 10 marketers each.

For starters, mobile readiness fell on both sides of the spectrum. We had some clients with full blown mobile presence – mobile optimized site as well as a mobile app – and others who had just about looked at their web analytics to determine what percent of their total traffic is coming from mobile. 

According to StatCounter, mobile web traffic has been doubling every year since 2009 with the number around the 8.5% mark. I was curious to see if the number held true for sites locally, and from conversations it seems like for the popular websites, that number was higher than global average. For many of the marketers, we were seeing numbers go beyond 10% and well into the late teens (however some of them were recording tablet traffic within mobile). 

Now this shouldn’t be surprising, especially since mobile penetration in the UAE is over 200%, which may have something to do with the country being ranked 10th in GDP per capita. 

This mobile traffic seemed to be dominated by iOS; not only did the devices show up higher than Android and BlackBerry in terms of share of mobile traffic, it was also the platform of choice for brands rolling out their mobile app. 

According to the Econsultancy Middle East and North Africa Middle East Digital Consumer Report published last year, Nokia is the smartphone manufacturer of choice in the region, according to 44% of respondents surveyed. Yet everyone on the table – or at least the ones who had something working for their brand in the mobile space – seemed to agree that iOS was the preferred platform, with the next step being Android. BlackBerry was lower on priority because the quality of traffic – in terms of time spent, pages viewed, and interactions – wasn’t up to the mark and marketers were comfortable rolling out web versions to this audience. 

There's still clearly a long way to go, and while some companies are beginning to focus on mobile, more companies need to take an experimental approach with mobile campaigns and advertising. At the recent Dubai Lynx Awards, just one company was shortlisted in the category for effective mobile campaigns. GE's Al Khairat Adventures mobile application ended up taking Silver prize at the international advertising festival, and as the only company on the shortlist, this illustrates that mobile case studies are still thin on the ground. 

The Al Khairat Adventures mobile application is a branded platform, designed to educate Saudis about healthy eating and tackling the issue of getting more fresh fruit and vegetables into the family diet. The app, aimed at families, includes a branded e-comic series and allows users to share recipes and read articles on healthy eating. 

Given that many of these brands had only recently launched their mobile marketing efforts, we didn’t hear a lot of other success metrics. It was either that or they weren’t comfortable sharing them. Either way I’m hoping that changes by the time the event comes around next year. Mobile seems to be an area of high interest in the Middle East and there was consensus that it will be a key area of attention in the coming year. 

 (Image Credit: SXC, GE / Dubai Lynx Festival)

Calling all Middle Eastern marketers! Do you have any examples or case studies of effective mobile marketing campaigns in the Middle East? Let us know in the comments!

Bhavishya Kanjhan

Published 18 March, 2012 by Bhavishya Kanjhan

Bhavishya Kanjhan is Senior Executive: Digital at Clique Media and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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