NEW YORK: Few major advertisers believe they are "very advanced" when it comes to leveraging the opportunities provided by mobile devices to engage consumers, a study has argued.

The CMO Council, the trade body, polled 250 global marketers, just 8% of which agreed their firm already had "very advanced" capabilities with regard to this channel.

A further 30% remained at the strategic evaluation stage, while 26% were currently developing apps. An extra 17% of firms boasted a "quite good" level of competence and were pushing into mobile marketing.

More broadly, 93% of the panel thought their target audience was making greater use of tablets, laptops, e-readers and smartphones. By contrast, 3% of interviewees stated these devices were "not that important" and 4% were unsure about their impact.

"What we're seeing is that mobile is a key tool in the way people shop," said Jay Altschuler, global communications planning director at Unilever, the FMCG firm. "We are working with retailers, carriers, and manufacturers to determine the best way to approach mobile."

For 55% of participants, the fact this medium was "always on and accessible" constituted its main benefit. Another 51% mentioned the targeted and customisable communications many wireless devices allowed for.

"We view mobile as the future, and that bodes really well for us because we can engage our consumers with messaging that will inspire them to consume more of our product, no matter where they are," said Brad Taylor, vice president, customer marketing, at Coca-Cola, the soft drinks group.

Messaging and communications were the marketing activities of most interest for 49% of executives, ahead of social media on 35%, opt-in value-added services on 34% and customer service on 23%.

"Mobile can create a significant competitive advantage if done correctly due to its ability to provide deeper levels of engagement through instant, two-way communication," said Lucas Herscovici, global director, strategic innovation and marketing at Anheuser-Busch, the brewer.

Just 16% of the sample had a mobile strategy in place at present, and 54% had one in development. Equally, a modest 14% were pleased with their performance in this area to date, while 43% were unsatisfied, and 37% had not fully assessed the results.

"We have to be really creative because providing a great mobile experience requires completely different thinking from our desktop experience; you have to think about mobile first," said Lisa Bari, director of digital marketing at Virgin America, the air carrier.

Social media ads were the format of most interest on 69%, beating paid search on 54%. To date, however, a modest 31% of firms would rate their investments as "very effective" or "good", showing considerable room for progress remains.

Data sourced from CMO Council; additional content by Warc staff