Touch & GO: Connected Mobile Conversations
The era of mobile marketing arguably began when Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007. The widespread smartphone adoption that followed liberated us to search and communicate without the limitations of place. Customers began to interact with brands across multiple devices, and a slew of new technologies were developed as part of the shift to mobile. However, just as we saw with the adoption of digital media, companies are leading with technology rather than considering the customer experience.
The proliferation of new mobile technologies presented customers with a host of options when interacting with brands, but there has rarely been a connection from one touchpoint to another, resulting in fragmented and often ineffective communication.
Before, marketers isolated efforts and focused on individual channels—direct, online, out of home, email, in store—but now, since interactions across channels are fluid as customers seamlessly switch from one channel to another, marketers have to follow their audiences with similar strategies. Today, marketers have to think about the customer journey in a series of touchpoints across traditional and modern channels, driving logical, personalized and contextual conversations.
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
A result of the initial frenzied mobile strategy adoption phase, many brands can proudly point to a mobile app (or several), a responsive or mobile site, a messaging strategy, and possibly a mobile wallet strategy. Due in part to the speed of adoption, many brands are now facing challenges in getting customers to interact with them via mobile regularly—25 percent of apps are downloaded once and never used again, akin to a child's forgotten toy.
Perhaps if someone reminded the child how much fun they used to have with the toy, things might be different! To make mobile work, we need to connect mobile touchpoints and orchestrate the intended behavior using both push and pull tactics. This is called a connected mobile conversation.
A connected mobile conversation is a way of connecting with customers and continuing to engage with them through a series of deliberate interactions on the device. This way, marketers aren't connecting with customers in singular instances and hoping they come back for more, or that they will naturally take the next step in engaging with us. We shouldn't be implementing isolated mobile tactics that have no driver either to it or from them, but thinking wholly from start to finish about how they can work together. The process is rooted in a deep understanding of the customers, how they use mobile, and also the capabilities of the device itself.
Knowing about a recipient's device may seem like an added bonus, but it is actually the only way this strategy can be reliably effective. The key is to learn about the device before deploying content, and to customize the actual text message that is sent. Some solutions attempt to address this challenge by sending a generic SMS message to all recipients with a link to a web page. Once users click the link—if they click it at all—the resulting web page can be scaled according to the device's screen size, but this approach misses the mark on creating a customized experience for the user for several reasons.
Because the initial message is a generic blast, there is no way to personalize the content (i.e. sending a Passbook download to an iOS user or sending a separate set of content to someone with a Blackberry or feature phone), and the experience relies on a second step to access a web page, yet the message experience is the same for all users. Rich Media Messaging is a technology that uses Intelligent Handset Detection to first discover the device, and then deliver an optimized message, all within mere seconds. Data points like device type, screen size, OS, and network can be known and will become essential to marketers as they seek to build customer relationships via mobile.
As a marketer, I can use Rich Media Messaging (RMM) device detection technology to segment my subscriber list and send a message with one set of content to all iOS users and another message to all Android users, and another to those using feature phones, and so on, capitalizing on my knowledge of their devices. For example, I can know that my customer is an iPhone 5 user, and incentivize her to opt in to a direct messaging program via an outdoor ad. Understanding the features and screen size of the device, I can deliver perfectly rendered rich content, highlighting a cool new feature of my app with a link to the iOS app store to download it, as well as link to share the content on social media.
Later, I could send a notification with a time-based promotional offer for a product known to be of interest to the user based on in-app activity, with a link to download the coupon to Apple's Passbook. I can also deliver a message with a calendar event download that works on an iPhone 5 so she doesn't forget to use the deal before it expires, as well as a link to my mobile website with the nearest physical store location.
I could create the same experience for Android users, with each step customized for those devices. Without device detection, I couldn't guide these customized experiences, and without thinking about my mobile assets in aggregate, I might have stopped after I'd sent the first message. A mobile conversation can drive activity across messaging, apps, mobile web, Passbook, or social media, but its power lies in the ability to deliver relevant, contextual value to users as they go about their daily lives.
The idea of multiple touchpoints is not new. In fact, Forrester released a report around the time the iPad was introduced in 2010, noting that businesses who get this strategy right will "see higher engagement and sales, as customers who interact with a business across multiple touchpoints are often worth five or six times that of a single-channel customer." This is a result of building deeper, more integrated relationships with customers through effective connected mobile conversations.
Mobile technology has dissolved barriers between traditional marketing channels and has fundamentally changed the way we interact with brands. Most marketers are behind this evolution, and it is time to let go of processes that cater to conventional interactions in favor of connected mobile conversations.