comScore-IncMore and more it looks like the pundits are right and 2011 will indeed be the year of the smartphone. Smart marketers are taking notice and making plans to leverage one of the most powerful devices traveled by the cross-channel consumer.

There’s little doubt that 2011 is a breakthrough year for smartphones and the technology surrounding them. There will be deluge of new apps, offering to make everything in your life easier, from shopping to helping you find a carwash on a Sunday morning with no line up; they’ll be an app for that. The momentum of mobile will continue to build in 2011.

According to comScore’s 2010 Europe Digital Year in Review, smartphone growth in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy increased by 9.5% to 31.1%. This penetration is even outpacing the US where last year saw the devices increase penetration by 10.2% to 27%.

Google Android posted a whopping 951% in use and now has a user base of 8.7 million. Meanwhile, Apple experienced a 115% increase to 14.5 million users. RIM posted a mild 65% increase while Palm managed to grow by 34%. While Symbian continues to lead among operating systems, it’s likely that Apple and Android will continue to grow and gather more market share in 2011.

Leveraging mobile technology for your customer’s benefit

The huge growth in the overall market which these numbers spotlight, demonstrates just how much potential (did you need any more proof?) the mobile channel has for marketing. They add more momentum to a trend that countless other surveys and reports have already stated: Smartphones and mobile devices are surpassing mere popularity and are or are becoming as ubiquitous as wrist watches once were.

The time has long past to be wondering about smartphones and mobile devices and what effect they “might” have on your marketing efforts. It’s no longer a question of “if” and it’s not even a question of “when” – it’s a question of “how”. How are you as a marketer going to leverage mobile technology for your customer’s benefit and your ROI? Both factors are closely related after all. The immediacy and personal nature of mobile marketing means your interactions with your subscribers and customers have to be a lot more relevant and timely to be effective and keep your lists healthy.

This isn’t just a new channel (well, in fact, it’s a device) to which you can apply the same approaches that you’ve used in email and traditional media. There seems to be a thinner line between humans and their smartphones than say, a PC or other device. Sure, we’ve had pocket devices such as radios for decades, but those devices couldn’t give you a message that your sister just had a baby or that your kid was sick at daycare, could they?

Smartphones have changed the playing field for marketing and marketers have to think as much about their approach as they do about the content. Doing it all the same way it’s always been done is a plan to fail. Smartphones need smart minds and smart minds are taking a good look at their marketing strategy, rethinking it and involving their customers in rebuilding it. And that goes for email marketing too.

Originally posted on Social Email Marketing and moved as part of an integration of our blogs.