When you look at the numbers and statistics, it is easy to spot trends on the digital frontier. Search engine optimization remains at the forefront of online expansion strategies for many businesses, and content marketing continues to grow as an effective and relatively inexpensive method for reaching new audiences.

However, the fastest-growing facet of digital marketing is mobile. At Top Source, we place a very intense focus on mobile strategy, both on our blog and as a company. That is a reflection of the business world at large. The International Advertising Bureau recently reported that mobile advertising grew 65 percent last year, becoming a $31.9 billion global industry. The same data shows that spending on mobile display ads rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2014.

mobile marketing growthThere is one single number that serves to illuminate the main reason behind this dramatic ascent: 97 percent. That’s the percentage of millenials that use their mobile devices daily, according to a new poll, for activities that range from text messaging to surfing the Net to streaming music and more. That is 97 out of 100 individuals, in the most important long-term customer demographic, plugging into their devices every day.

Needless to say, it is easy to see why mobile marketing budgets are exploding across the board. At the core, advertising and marketing are about finding new customers and connecting with them; this data makes it blatantly clear where the next generation of customers is going to be found, and fortunately, mobile devices provide a lot of opportunities to reach and engage users.

Unfortunately, many small businesses are lagging behind in this crucial area. A new study on state of the co-op (or collaborative) marketing industry, conducted by Netsertive and Borrell Associates, found that a huge percentage of small retailers are missing out on key opportunities due to misguided approaches.

Via AdWeek:

About 40 percent of small retailers appear to be ignoring their chances of connecting with on-the-go consumers, according to a report today from digital marketing company Netsertive and local-business researcher Borrell Associates. And because merchandisers haven’t adjusted to the mobile age, they are leaving massive amounts of money on the table when it comes to cooperative advertising.

“We were stunned to discover that advertisers are leaving $14 billion in ‘free advertising’ on the table—about twice as much as three years ago,” Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, said in a statement. “This is because co-op programs are out of sync with local advertisers’ changing needs, particularly in the digital realm.”

Only 61 percent of respondents in the study said their websites were mobile-optimized. That’s just a crazy-low number in this day and age, where such a large fraction of the population is accessing the Web from smartphones and tablets almost exclusively.

Placing a major emphasis on mobile strategy is no longer a way for marketing departments to get ahead of the curve; it’s now needed simply to keep up with the times. Soon, those 40 percent of small businesses that aren’t taking mobile seriously will be rendered as obsolete as a payphone.