The ‘rise of mobile’ has been a hot topic in online for years; however, at the start of 2012 it’s beginning to feel like mobile marketing has finally arrived as a channel worth shouting about both in terms of viability and, more importantly for the bottom line, profitability.

More and more consumers are using smartphones and mobile devices to access content. A whopping 42% of the UK mobile users now operate on a smart phone and 51% have browsed the internet on their mobile devices in the past week.

While 65% of mobile owners routinely use their mobile devices to find businesses for in-store purchases (Source: Google, 2011) a significant 13% of UK consumers have actually made a purchase via a mobile, with a further 19% having used their mobile to compare prices and look at product reviews while out shopping. 

This shift in consumer behaviour is having a dramatic impact on the affiliate sector, which has proved in the past to be a perfect testing ground for more innovative advertising models.

With advertisers increasingly investing in viable mobile commerce sites, publishers are utilising the platform as another avenue for increasing revenue.

With this in mind, what steps should advertisers and publishers be taking to increase affiliate traffic and drive revenue through a mobile platform?

Firstly, it’s worth thinking about how people use the mobile platform. Browsing on a smartphone is not easy and it’s time consuming to type a lot of information into a tablet or a phone so simplicity is key when conveying information.

The mobile platform is brilliantly suited to grabbing customers with one simple idea or image. Product shots translate particularly well to the high resolution screens of touch activated tablets and smart phones and the medium is ideal for quick, last minute, searches and purchases. 

Logic might suggest that consumers are unlikely to spend a lot of money on a mobile platform. High value purchases tend to be more considered and informed by a deep-level of research that’s best suited to a desktop; however, this is not reflected in data shared by some of our travel clients.

The convenience of booking on the move means that high value purchases of flights and hotel rooms are commonplace through smartphone.

When it comes to data from tablets, average order values for retailers are often significantly higher than those generated via traditional online channels. While this trend is partly influenced by the spending power of the tablet-owning demographic, it highlights how profitable mobile sales can be for publishers.

The next thing to think about is the different channels within mobile: apps, mobile sites, SMS services and search functionality offer a wealth of different promotional opportunities.

Incentive publishers such as Quidco have developed apps within the affiliate channel to push exclusive cashback rates and deals out to consumers.  In the content space, My Deco has a great consumer app featuring easy to browse comparison of products from home retailers.

Then there are the other capabilities that mobile can offer such as geo location. Voucher publishers including VoucherCloud and Markco Media have been quick to utilise this to serve area-specific offers to consumers.

As the Voucher Cloud example demonstrates, one of the key benefits of a mobile device is that it can bridge the gap between online and offline. The mobile platform allows affiliates to drive footfall and increase sales in-store, an area that’s traditionally been off-limits for affiliates.

It’s not just a case of ensuring your affiliate traffic is available on a mobile device, it’s about using a mobile to increase traffic by being creative and innovative and using all opportunities the platform brings.

Another hot trend within mobile is the idea of “sofalising”. If you think about it, it’s logical. When watching television a lot of people have their mobiles to hand so why not combine TV advertising with mobile? 

Sofalising is where consumers are encouraged to respond to TV advertising via their mobile; this increases interaction with brands and helps to measure the impact of broadcast spend; it can utilise the affiliate channel and is an innovative way to integrate a marketing strategy and use the unique elements of the mobile platform to reach individuals.

With publishers keen to drive traffic via mobile, it’s essential that when advertisers are creating mobile platforms, they remember to add their affiliate network pixel to the confirmation page.

Traffic visiting their site via a mobile device will automatically be re-directed to the m-commerce site, so it needs to be set up with the same pixels as you would find on the standard website. Publishers can then be rewarded for mobile-specific traffic and can be confident that there will be no leakage when products are purchased via mobile devices.

The smartphone market is growing quickly and it’s worth keeping pace with these developments. It seems unbelievable that the iPhone has been around for just five short years yet Apple’s app store now holds over 500,000 apps! 

We’re looking at an ever evolving technology that allows you to pay for products with your mobile, both online and in-store. Publishers and advertisers will be left behind if they don’t start to integrate mobile activity into their affiliate strategy. 

Getting involved is a simple case of thinking about the needs of your audience; pushing the right products; innovating when developing your offering; and guaranteeing that all traffic on mobile devices can be tracked.

Do this the right way and you’ll be opening yourself up to a share of a market that’s estimated to be worth £275m by 2013.