Mobile is potentially the holy grail of marketing. Billions of individuals around the world own a mobile phone, and for many, the mobile phone has become the most important, most frequently used communication tool.

With smartphone adoption soaring, marketers can increasingly reach mobile phone owners in compelling ways. But that doesn’t mean mobile marketing is delivering ROI.

A recent survey conducted by Luth Research for Upstream, a mobile marketing solutions provider, may shine some light on how marketers can change that.

The conclusion that can be drawn from the survey: forget timing and location. When it comes to what mobile users want, these things matter far less than personalization and incentivization.

In other words, hitting consumers with offers that cater to their interests and for which they’ve opted in is far more effective than trying to find a magical formula for hitting them with an unsolicited message at the right place and time.

Just how much more effective? Amongst the 2,000 individuals Luth Research surveyed, approximately 60% preferred personalized offers. Only 17% and 14% favored promotions based on timing and location, respectively.

According to Assaf Baciu, Upstream’s SVP of Product Management, “This data reinforces the very intimate, personal nature of
consumers’ mobile devices, and the singular priority for mobile
marketers to carefully manage and optimize their engagement and number
of interactions with customers.

The importance of recognizing that the mobile phone is a very personal device cannot be understated. Recently, in discussing marketers’ general unhappiness with mobile advertising ROI, I noted that as powerful as mobile advertising has the potential to be, “advertisers should keep in mind that the mobile is also a very personal device, making the potential to annoy far, far greater.

The good news is that marketers may find that success with mobile is relatively simple: limit interactions to those that were requested, and find ways to incentivize action. Such an approach works in other channels, so it’s not a stretch to believe that it would work with the mobile channel as well.