The Geography of Marketing: Staying Connected

The number of people who own smartphones worldwide continues to rise. Therefore, mobile marketing is becoming more important for businesses around the globe.

While the technology that is used in mobile devices has improved markedly in recent years, there are still issues that marketers need to be aware of that can influence the overall effectiveness of their mobile marketing campaigns.

In episode #436 of, Rob Woodbridge interviewed Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head of Consumer Insights for Ericsson ConsumerLab in India.

In a blog post introducing the episode, Woodbridge explains that Sethi believes the greatest challenge he faces is understanding the user experience for consumers in emerging markets.

“Forget your perceptions of UI/UX if you are thinking of swipes or “pull to refresh” or tap and hold, user experience to Jasmeet means something altogether more fundamental,” writes Woodbridge. “We take for granted the almost pervasive access to high speed wireless data we have at our fingertips but, as you know, in certain parts of emerging countries that doesn’t exist. This is a critical first step in understanding how to build for these markets – if your app or mobile service requires an always-on connection to the stream, it will not work in much of India. This, and many other basic usability requirements, could do irreparable damage to great brands and limit success in these huge markets.”

Back in the United States of America

While having limited access to an always-on data connection and slow download speeds are definitely going to be problems in emerging markets, these issues are also problems for marketers here in the United States. Therefore, the lessons that Woodbridge and Sethi are trying to teach marketers around the world are also valuable to those marketers who are trying to reach U.S. consumers.

According to a report that was released last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 77% of adult mobile Internet users in the United States said that they experience “slow download speeds that prevent things from loading as quickly as you would like them to” at least occasionally. In fact, nearly half (46%) of adult U.S. mobile Internet users reported that they experience this problem at least once a week. (Note: Data from this study was also reported in an article written by Amy Gahran on in August of 2012.)

An even simpler way to illustrate this problem is to go to the maps that show the 3G and 4G coverage areas for any mobile network operator in the United States.

According the current coverage map for Verizon Wireless, Verizon 4G LTE is available in 480 cities and covers 87% of the U.S. population. However, there are still many areas of the country that still don’t have access to Verizon’s 4G network. In fact, there are major areas on the map where 3G coverage isn’t available. While these areas aren’t places where many people live, they might be places where people travel to. Either way, they are locations where mobile marketing might not be the best option at this point in time.

It should be noted that there are many places around the country, including in the metro areas of Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I have experienced regular data connection problems when I used my 3G smartphone. This includes outdoor spaces, as well as in malls and major retail stores.

In episode 6 of the Digital Dive Podcast, co-hosts Emily Binder and Melanie Touchstone talk about connection issues that they encountered in the metro Atlanta area when vendors used their mobile devices to accept mobile payments with apps like Square or LevelUp. In episode 7, they arrive at the conclusion that the problem is fixed when vendors are connected to a 4G network. Therefore, 4G might be the solution that marketers and entrepreneurs are looking for.

However, keep in mind, that although 4G LTE is available in most urban areas, not everyone has upgraded to a 4G-enabled mobile device.

Therefore, if your mobile marketing campaign requires an always-on data connection, it is highly recommended that you test to make sure that consumers can connect using various types of mobile devices in the geographical areas where the campaign will be running, and definitely test to make sure that they can connect using a 3G network. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to test at different times of the day using different mobile devices before implementing your mobile marketing campaign. Then, continue to test the data connection availability and download speeds from time to time while the mobile marketing campaign is running.

Final Thoughts

As Woodbridge and Sethi point out in the post introducing episode #436 of, data connection issues and slow download speeds can limit the success of mobile marketing campaigns and possibly cause irreparable damage to great brands.

Although they were talking about marketing to consumers in India and other emerging markets, similar issues are still problems in many parts of the United States.

While having a 4G connection might solve many of these problems, 4G is not available everywhere. And, even in places where it is available, many consumers won’t be able to access it because they haven’t upgraded to a 4G-enabled mobile device.

Therefore, before your business implements a mobile marketing campaign that requires an always-on data connection, it would be a good idea to test the data connection availability and download speeds in the geographical areas where the campaign will be running using a variety of mobile devices during different times of the day. And, definitely make sure that consumers can connect using a mobile device on a 3G network. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to test the data connection availability and download speeds from time to time while the mobile marketing campaign is running.

Finally, if your business plans to offer mobile payment options using Square, LevelUp or some other similar service, it is probably a good idea to make sure that your business is connected to a 4G network. It is also a good idea to test to make sure that everything is running smoothly before you use the service to process transactions during peak sales hours.

Photo credits: LGEPR and ETC@USC on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

I am a marketing analyst and strategist. I earned my master's degree from West Virginia University in Integrated Marketing Communications in 2023. I also hold a bachelor's degree from UW-Madison in Sociology with a Concentration in Analysis and Research, and I completed the Mobile Marketing Professional Certificate Program from Auburn University in 2015.