The Dawning of a New Mobile Era
The era of mobile marketing is fast approaching. With the unlimited array of things that can be done with a mobile device, it's clear that mobile marketing has huge untapped potential. Now that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population carries a mobile phone, businesses would be wise to become part of the burgeoning mobile lifestyle. As more consumers overcome their biases toward printed text on paper, marketers across all industries will have more ways to connect with them — at a lower cost and with better ability to track results than previous marketing tactics.
Digital channels capture enormous amounts of data. Having a strategy to transform this data into customer intelligence is essential. Analytically driven insight enables a better understanding of customer behavior — e.g., what they’ve done in the past as well as what they’ll likely do in the future. Leveraging this insight to improve how, what and when to communicate with customers is critical to the success of a mobile strategy, or any marketing strategy for that matter.
Mobile technology provides three key methods of communication:
- SMS (text messaging), supported by 97 percent of mobile devices;
- the mobile web, viewable through 43 percent of mobile devices; and
- mobile applications, usable on 18 percent of mobile devices.
A successful mobile marketing strategy will employ all three channels and use a mix of tactics that provide both value and personalization. Far more than a customer service tactic, mobile marketing is poised to become an entire platform for managing the customer experience.
For example, Target recently made its weekly ad flier fully customizable for digitally savvy shoppers, who can receive hot deals on products they’re interested in on their mobile device. Instead of having to read the Sunday flier, consumers can simply check "My TargetWeekly" on their phones when visiting Target to see the specials on tap.
Some businesses are also using mobile devices for loyalty programs. Forget the keychain cards. Simply pull up the store’s loyalty card app on your smartphone and scan it. Although still in the early stages, smartphone loyalty card apps will almost certainly become the norm in the near future.
The right tactic for the right channel
Mobile devices present unprecedented opportunities for marketers to engage consumers, who return the favor by providing extraordinary insight into their preferences and behaviors. SMS, the mobile web and mobile apps each have advantages that must be leveraged in an appropriate manner. In all cases, the personal nature of the device dictates that marketers only send messages requested by the consumer.
Some 72 percent of adults send and receive text messages — up 10 percent since last year. Ninety-seven percent of text messages are opened, compared to only 16 percent to 17 percent of marketing emails. If marketers communicate effectively via SMS, their messages get read. Creative limitations (e.g., short messages, no graphics) matter less when your content is welcome, like special events, coupons, account notifications and friendly reminders.
Over 95 percent of new phones sold today have web browsers, used regularly by 70 million people. For marketers, the mobile web still presents two downfalls: not all websites are mobile optimized and not all mobile sites are user friendly. When done correctly, however, the mobile web offers the rich experience consumers expect.
Like PC-based websites, mobile websites should be built around customer preferences. Offering tools such as store locators, mobile chat, access to account information and more builds customer loyalty. The example of "My TargetWeekly" is just one way the mobile web can deliver desirable offers to consumers, or at least help them interact with customer service to get assistance.
Smartphones represent a rapidly growing percentage of mobile devices in the marketplace. The most recent Nielsen Three Screen Report noted that overall smartphone sales in the last quarter increased 29 percent, and that number is expected to reach 50 percent-plus by 2011. Examples of mobile apps that help manage the customer lifecycle experience include:
- mobile banking apps that enable consumers to manage accounts, transfer money and pay bills;
- mobile shopping apps through which consumers can get the latest deals and order directly using their smartphone;
- a cable TV app that lets customers set their DVRs, schedule service and check billing information; and
- a music app that manages a user’s music library, notifying them when a preferred artist releases a new album.
But marketers, take note: While the explosion of mobile technology has opened the door to a wide range of marketing opportunities, the mobile device remains very personal. It's imperative that businesses understand their customers’ preferences in order to develop mobile solutions that best serve their needs and avoid interfering with their day-to-day use of the device.
It's also imperative that the mobile channel be combined and coordinated with other communication channels to ensure a consistent dialog with your customers. By pairing deep customer insight with the best-suited tools for each individual, businesses can develop a rich new customer experience — and profitable relationships — through the mobile platform.
Stacy Adams is global marketing director at Air2Web, a provider of mobile messaging solutions. Stacy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Larry Mosiman is the worldwide product marketing manager for SAS Customer Intelligence Solutions, a business analytics software and services provider. Larry can be reached at email@example.com.