When I co-authored Go Mobile with Jeanne Hopkins, we devoted an entire chapter to QR codes. At the time the book was published, QR codes had been scanned by 18% of the U.S. population. Today, a year and a half later, QR codes have been scanned by — brace yourself — a whopping 19% of the U.S. population (Source: ScanLife). In other words, they’ve been an abysmal failure.

What happened? Shouldn’t a larger percentage of people have scanned a QR code at least once? You betcha.

The bottom line is that QR codes never caught on, partly because iOS and Android didn’t quickly build them into their operating systems and partly because consumers were confused by them.

We could spend a lot of time analyzing the details behind those events, but rather than do that, let’s talk about 6 more important things you should know about mobile marketing. After all, we want to focus on future success, not past failures.

Ready? Here are 6 key things you need to know about mobile:

1. Mobile First is Over. It’s All About Cross-Screen Now

The term mobile first means that you as a brand/company/individual need to think about your customer experience as a mobile one first and as a desktop one second.

By now, you probably have a mobile website. (If you haven’t created one yet, don’t worry — your competitors have one and, as a result, are taking your customers away from you.) But, assuming you’re like the 70% of our readers who do have a mobile website, your next step is to focus on cross-screen marketing.

Cross-screen marketing is based on the understanding that most consumers will connect with your brand via desktop and tablet and smartphone (not desktop or tablet or smartphone). In other words, instead of thinking about the smartphone experience first, think about the fact that a consumer might do an initial search for your product from a tablet while watching TV, then do more in-depth research via desktop, then do a final price check in-store from a smartphone. Action Step: If you’re a small business and don’t have an agency building  you a responsive mobile website, then read How to Build a Mobile Website which has some tips on building a simple mobile site for a small to mid-sized business. If you do have a mobile website and are looking for additional ideas on how to use mobile marketing, read 50 Insanely Simple Ways to Grow Your Sales with Mobile.


2. Rich Media will Soon Become the Norm

The big complaint about mobile is that the tiny little banner ads are easy to ignore. Mobile ad networks like iAd have worked very hard to combat that problem with innovative ads that jump off the screen. In the future, the majority of mobile display ads will include rich media, which will make them more engaging and more fun to interact with. Action Step: For an example of a really cool rich media ad, check out the HBO case study in 14 Insanely Simple Mobile Marketing Techniques You Can Steal from the Fortune 500.


3. Rumors About the Death of SMS are Greatly Exaggerated

I’m not a huge fan of SMS, but I have to tell you — SMS is the tool that keeps on giving. For proof, just tune in to American Idol where SMS has been used to engage the viewing audience for years and years. What’s more, data shows that the average person responds to an SMS message within 2 minutes (as opposed to 48 hours for an email). Action Step: Read Mobile Marketing Platforms: What Works and What Doesn’t Work for more tips on how to use SMS (and other mobile platforms) to grow your sales and revenues.

4. Mobile Is About More than Just Websites

While mobile websites get a lot of attention, the truth is that there’s more to mobile than just creating a mobile-optimized site. For starters, you should take a deep dive into mobile paid search or mobile display. From there, you should check out location based advertising or social/mobile. The key is to keep on innovating and keep on trying new tools — that’s the only way to really benefit from everything mobile has to offer. Action Step: To wrap your mind around all the ways you can use mobile, read 50 Insanely Simple Ways to Grow Sales with Mobile Marketing referenced previously. It’s a monster post with a ton of ideas.

5. Don’t Waste Your Time with a Mobile App

People are surprised when I tell them you shouldn’t waste your time with QR codes, but they’re even more surprised when I say that apps are also a waste of time (for most businesses, not all). There are plenty of other mobile marketing tools that are 1) easier to develop, and 2) will provide a better ROI.

Mobile apps are great if you have an embedded user base and you’re trying to reduce churn. But they’re not a good customer acquisition tool. (For proof of this, ask yourself when you downloaded an app from a brand you didn’t already know/have a relationship with. That’s right — never. Game over.) Action Step: Focus your efforts on tools like mobile display and mobile paid search before you even think about developing a mobile app. Only develop a mobile app if you have an embedded user base.

6. Instagram is the Next Facebook

Instagram is coming on strong. In fact, my entirely unscientific and anecdotal research leads me to believe that Instagram will replace Facebook among young people over the next 5 years. In fact, Instagram essentially is Facebook — in other words, it’s a way to tell friends what you’re doing — but it more easily defaults to photos, which makes it more engaging and interactive. Action Step: For more on using Instagram for your business, read How to Run a Contest Using Instagram and Twitter on the 60 Second Marketer blog.

Those are my thoughts on what’s coming down the pike on the mobile front. What are your thoughts? I didn’t have time to talk about NFC — do you think it’s for real? Or is it a flash in the pan like QR codes will turn out to be?

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.