Smartphones are a crucial way to reach buyers, writes Steve Hart. Just aim for the zero moment of truth!

Business owners are missing a trick if the country's 1.9 million smartphone users are not seeing their online advertising on the small screen.

Lara Bancroft, interactive marketing director at Yellow, says businesses need to be seen where people are looking, and increasingly that is online while they are at home, travelling or shopping with a smartphone.

With smartphone use growing exponentially, and a survey by Google estimating almost 2 million of these devices in use across New Zealand today, connecting with customers has never been easier.

According to Google's Our Mobile Planet survey of 1000 Kiwis, 73 per cent of smartphone owners never leave home without one, and 24 per cent of users would rather give up their TV than their phone.


"Smartphone users spend almost two hours a day consuming media on a mobile," says Bancroft. "If you want to reach your customers, and they are on a phone, then what a great way to do it."

For those who think advertising on a smartphone is like joining an over-saturated medium, Bancroft suggests they think again.

"Advertising on mobile phones is under-penetrated," she says. "The second quarter mobile advertising spend in New Zealand was $930,000 according to a PWC report, which is very low. For the same quarter in Australia it was $30 million. That means there is lots of room for growth in this market.

"Smartphones have transformed consumer behaviour, and what business owners need to understand is how that behaviour is transitioning so they can generate more sales. The benefit of smartphones is their ease of use and that they are always there - any place, anywhere and any time."

Bancroft also points to things such as QR codes, the square graphics that accompany some press advertising. Scan these with a smartphone and the advertiser's website appears ideally with an offer linked to the advert.

"People spot the ad, scan the QR code with a smartphone, see the web page, visit the store and pay with their phone using near-field communication," says Bancroft. "This ties advertising together. The technology is there to connect the digital space with bricks and mortar operations."

While paid-for advertising is an obvious way to drive traffic to your business, some companies are having software applications written for them, or are paying to have their adverts appear with popular third-party apps such as utilities and games.

"Subway, the fast-food sandwich maker, has an excellent app that lets people order their food and get special offers sent to their phone," says Bancroft. "Apps such as these drive impulse purchases. They can also help form buying habits."

While Bancroft says smartphone apps have their place in helping to building a brand and customer loyalty, they are not ideal for every business.

"If a company is trying to reach a target audience of smartphone owners who use apps, then it is worth investigating - because you can learn a lot about consumer behaviour with them," she says.

Marketers are also looking at a term dubbed by Google, the 'zero moment of truth' to influence people's buying decisions, says Bancroft. That is when consumers research products to see what other people are saying about them, search for coupons and alternatives.

Research by Google reveals that shoppers used five sources of information before making a purchasing decision in 2010, but last year that had risen to 10. In short, the 'zero moment' adds yet another layer to the advertising and marketing mix, mainly in the social media and online forum space.

The bottom line, says Bancroft, is that managers need to understand why they are advertising and where those ads need to be seen.

"It can be a big investment for some small businesses to take their firm online, so they have to ensure they are found and make it work," she says.

"I think the reasons for being online in the mobile space are compelling. All business owners need to do is learn how to maximise their ad spend in the digital space."