It’s the “3-foot device”: most peoples’ smartphones are never more than three feet away from them. It’s the most intimate and individual piece of personal mobile technology most people own. And if you want to know your customers, serve your customers, and sell to your customers, it’s critical that you get a grip on mobile.

The data shows over and over that it’s one of the most effective and efficient ways to market, but too many companies are leaving money on the table by using it clumsily — when engagement is done wrong, there’s no coming back from it when customers can opt out with a tap — or not at all.

With mobile marketing, there’s not much time for trial and error. VentureBeat dove deep into mobile trends and best practices to uncover exactly what you need to do nail down your mobile marketing fast and deliver an unstoppable mobile marketing strategy.

This list below only scratches the surface. Take advantage of VB’s bundled mobile report offer to get the data, vendor reviews, best practices, and insights you need to leverage mobile marketing to the fullest in 2016.

  • Mobile User Acquisition – How top publishers get the best users for less money
  • Brands and Mobile advertising – how leading edge brands are engaging with users through mobile
  • Mobile Marketing Automation – How the most successful apps drive massive engagement and monetization

Get 66% off all three top mobile research reports.

1. Start spending

Eight years after Apple blew up the modern mobile ecosystem, 187.5 million people in the U.S. own a smartphone. By next year, there will be more than 2 billion smartphone users globally.

Among those billions of mobile are 350 billion apps downloads, and they’re spending 80-90% of their three daily mobile device hours in apps. Overall time on device grew 76% in 2014, and 21% of millennials in the U.S. now access the Internet primarily via their mobile devices.

So why has Mary Meeker has identified a $25 billion mobile advertising gap? With only 8% of advertising spend invested in mobile, marketers are leaving a gaping hole in the media channel consumers turn to constantly.

A small number of huge mobile gaming companies are driving an outsize portion of mobile ad spend, says Rockyou CEO Lisa Marino, who runs the ninth-largest ad exchange in the U.S.

But available impressions are rising, hitting an all-time single-day high of 8.7 billion impressions on January 29 of 2015. There’s tremendous opportunity in the space, and spend needs to follow.

2. Context is the new king

Mobile has opened up a whole new avenue for marketers — now we’ve got a ton of data on where our users are going, and when – and what they’re looking at on their phones.

In a survey of 1,500 mobile users, we found that 79 percent of Americans have seen ads for local businesses on their smartphones or tablets, while 82 percent have seen ads for national or global brands.

Because it turns out that if you deliver the right message, at the right time and in the right place to the right person, 49 percent of those users will give you their undivided attention. Another 17 percent will engage with it to determine whether it’s worthy of further action, and 24 percent will actively check out the product or service you’re offering. A full 10 percent will either buy it or consider buying it.

3. Start personalizing — yesterday

Personalized messages can achieve 200% more conversions than general messages.

If it’s not in the right place at the right time, it could just be perceived as a blast. But effective, personalized targeting can boost ad engagement as much as 50X. Even the average is still massive, with an engagement bump from 3X to 10X.

A recent Dodge campaign which abandoned generic messaging and included a personalized 320×50 banner at the bottom or top of a smartphone’s screen–where most inventory gets just 0.5% clickthrough–hit 2.06%.

But before you can personalize — or at least customize to a segment — you need to use data to target. Take context and location data one step further: Behavioral and psychographic data are key to developing messages that consumers care about, and click through.

4. Tap into video ad revenue

In a study of tens of millions of mobile ad placements, Millennial Media discovered that video ads tend to average 5X the engagement of static banner ads, from 2-3X in automotive and entertainment, to 6-7X in finance, retail, telecom, and technology services verticals.

We’d already found that mobile-first companies rate video as one of their top-ranking user-acquisition tactics, and discovered that mobile gaming publishers win 9X the revenue of banner ads.

Video offers immediate lift for advertisers: According to a March 2015 Nielsen study with Facebook, zero seconds of video watching—just the video still, which essentially becomes a free display ad–still resulted in a 10% increase in ad recall.

Just three seconds of autoplay resulted in 47% recall, 32% higher brand awareness, and measurable impact on purchase intent.

Rewarded video is showing similar numbers. Internet radio brand Pandora saw 4x increased engagement, a 12% lift in brand awareness, and 30% lift in purchase intent.

We’re betting that this is why mobile video ad spend doubled from 2013 to 2014, up to $1.4 billion, and we predict that it’ll double again this year—and hit almost $7 billion in just a few short years. It’s time to get in there.

5. High-quality users? Pony up.

We surveyed 731 mobile developers with over a billion users between them and it turns out: You do have to pay to get the highest value users.

Mobile-first developers spend a lot of time trying to scale their numbers quickly with cheap user acquisitions– $1 to $3 at most. But conventional marketers have an advantage in knowing that to get quality users, you need to put up the cash — spends of $20 — up to $50 are pretty common.

The good news is: you get what you pay for. While conventional companies are typically spending more for new mobile users, they’re also earning more too. Our data shows that the life-time value for those conventional companies who are spending is very high — usually in the $50-60 range, with significant strength in the $70-90 range, and even above.

6. Get interactive

Smart interactivity, fueled by creative innovation, gives viewers something they want in a brand-relevant way.

Lifetime pulled an astounding 80% conversion rate with a promotion for their popular show, “Devious Maids.”

Banking on the internet’s love of personality quizzes, Lifetime’s ad for the “Devious Maids” was a game embedded in the cable channel’s Facebook app. Targeted users not only clicked through, but they took the “Which Devious Maid Are You?” quiz, and then watched the video promotion at record rates.

Similarly, TV network The CW worked with Opera Mediaworks to create a mini “catch-the-Flash” game for its new series, “The Flash.”

The creative was pre-loaded for instant gameplay, and a full 40% of mobile users who saw the ad played the game. “The Flash” became The CW’s best debut in five years.

7. Ignore mobile marketing automation at your own risk

Mobile marketing automation is how Subway Surfer improves monetization. It’s how Starbucks engages deeper with its customers. And it’s how Plants vs Zombies gets you back.

One Appboy client who unleashed mobile marketing automation with its several-millions strong userbase achieved the dream of all marketers: instant ROI. Using Appboy’s mobile marketing automation platform, the client found a highlighted a set of users who were engaged in the app, but who had never purchased anything. With a targeted campaign for this segment of users, marketers convinced 2% of them to link their credit cards to their accounts, and the company realized a $100,000 revenue boost with just the first in-app message.

While that may not be typical, our survey found that 86 percent of app publishers reported success in increased engagement, higher revenue, improved conversions, better user insights, higher retention, and more using mobile marketing automation. But it doesn’t stop there: 7 percent of developers said they were able to achieve omnichannel goals thanks to mobile marketing automation.

8. Partner with the right platforms

We surveyed 375 mobile developers with over 900 million monthly average users to find the best mobile marketing automation platforms. Then we analyzed 1.8 million apps in Google Play and the iOS app store, conducted 23 live interviews, and surveyed 23 MMA providers.

They all agree: successful mobile marketing automation comes down to the tool you use to get the job done.

The most complete MMA solutions we found are Appboy and Adobe, each of which ticks off 16 of the 17 features we surveyed. Appboy doesn’t do SMS campaigns — which no other startup MMA vendor does either– and Adobe doesn’t do feedback (surveys and ratings).

However, smaller vendors have clearly defined their space, including feature-rich players such as Localytics, FollowAnalytics, and others. And mobile marketing automation is only a piece of the whole. Prime examples include Optimizely, which focuses primarily on UI optimization, Nudge, which is a live ops solution, and Scientific Revenue, an intelligent pricing engine.

Smart publishers won’t disregard the smaller players. It’s not about how many boxes you can tick off, but how your platform works in the real world, and if it has the precise tools your campaigns need.

(Get reviews of 21 solutions in our mobile marketing automation report bundle.)

9.Protect your spend by eliminating fraud

All the insight in the world won’t do your business much good if your spend is being siphoned off by fraudsters.

A Trademob study of 6 million mobile clicks in 2012 found that up to 40% were fraudulent. A Microsoft study released last year said that mobile advertisers were cheated out of a staggering $1 billion in 2013. And a study by the Association of National Advertisers and WhiteOps said that we’ll see $6.3 billion in ad fraud in 2015. Mobile is only 25-35 percent of that, but you don’t have to comprise too big a percentage of $6.3 billion for it to add up quickly.

Mobile advertising fraud methods include bots, stacked banners, invisible video, invisible banners, and “fat-finger” links.

So what’s an advertiser to do? Buy premium; buy rewarded. Choose partners who guarantee viewability. Add the right third-party powerhouse(s) to your mobile advertising stack. And most importantly — and it should go without saying — monitor results. Too many views without engagement, or unexplainable conversions that don’t result in tangible KPIs, or a sudden rush of activity, can signal fraud.

Don’t miss out on this limited time offer. Get our three biggest mobile reports at 66% off.

  • Mobile User Acquisition – How top publishers get the best users for less money
  • Brands and Mobile advertising – how leading edge brands are engaging with users through mobile
  • Mobile Marketing Automation – How the most successful apps drive massive engagement and monetization