Cover Story: How Mobile Is Your Marketing?
Mobile is one of the fastest-changing channels in marketing today. CTIA-The Wireless Association reports that 96 percent of U.S. adults own a cell phone; 37 percent of those are smartphones, according to The Nielsen Company's latest numbers, up from 28 percent in November 2010.
The tablet boom started by Apple's iPad continues to reshape how consumers and businesses interact with digital marketing, while text codes and 2D barcodes—including QR Codes—are revolutionizing direct mail and other print media. The USPS is even offering a two-month "Summer Sale" on marketing mail that includes 2D barcodes to showcase the power of the new technology.
And yet, for many direct marketers, mobile is also the least understood channel. In the results of Target Marketing's 2011 Media Usage Survey from the March issue, more than half of responding direct marketers did not use mobile marketing, and only a third were increasing budgets for the channel.
"A recent Forrester study ["How Mature Is Your Mobile Strategy?" by Thomas Husson, Oct. 2010] revealed that almost three-quarters of the world's leading mobile marketers don't, in fact, have a mobile strategy and have essentially treated mobile as a standalone or experimental medium," says Mike Ricci, vice president of mobile for Portland, Ore.-based digital analytics firm Webtrends. "It is often a lone exploratory attempt and not part of the larger marketing strategy."
To remedy that, Target Marketing sought the opinions of Ricci and four other mobile marketing experts to learn how mobile marketing really works. Their insights form the basis of this quiz and the best practices explained in the following answers.
1. Should mobile be treated as an extension of Web marketing?
Answer: b. No
"Mobile marketing includes SMS, MMS, mobile advertising, mobile Web, apps, QR Codes and more—all of which deserve dedicated attention," says Eric Harber, president and chief operating officer of Kirkland, Wash.-based mobile marketing company Hipcricket. With so many marketing tactics branching off of mobile, our experts were quick to point out that any mobile strategy needs to be integrated with your overall marketing and consumer communication strategies.
"Mobile isn't just a tactic, it's how consumers are choosing to consume information," explains Matt Wittier, vice president of account services for Seattle-based direct marketing agency The Hacker Group. "Many smart devices offer something very close to a 'real' Web experience, but we still have a ways to go to reconcile issues like Flash [which iPhones and iPads do not support] and optimized video."
Even bigger than the technical and strategic issues is this: What does your audience want? Wittier says, "What's more important is whether or not a consumer really wants the full Web experience [on mobile devices]. Remember, full email is possible on many phones. But many consumers still text, which is unique to their phones. ... Consumers will ultimately decide their own tolerances for increased functionality, features, etc. on their smaller screens."
"In a nutshell," says Ricci, "brands that believe mobile equals Web are fraught with failure."
2. How do mobile websites differ from
Answer: e. All of the above
"Mobile is a unique and distinct access channel to the Web," explains Joel Morrow, CEO of Mobile Fusion, a Denver-based social media and mobile marketing agency. "When on-the-go consumers access the Web [through a mobile device], the tasks they are trying to accomplish are materially different than the desktop Web."
For example, when consumers view a company's website on their mobile phones, Morrow says they are usually "trying to find how to contact or find the company. They are not researching the company or applying for a job. Thus, the mobile website needs to be laser-focused to help the on-the-go consumer finish tasks as quickly and simply as possible."
"There are a number of ways in which mobile, Web and tablet scenarios are different, including the obvious ones such as screen size and processing power," says Andrew Martin, vice president of the North American division of London-based digital marketing agency Metia. But, "it goes so much further than just adjusting for screen size and bandwidth. Designers need to think about the capabilities that a mobile device has and how these can be used to provide the best user experience."
Mobile analytics and the lack of quality data and integration with existing CRM systems are some of the obstacles our experts see holding mobile back.
"Mobile has been missing the same kind of analytic rigor that brands have applied to their [Internet], email, search, social and display programs," explains Ricci. "Today, marketers are demanding to know what the ROI is for their mobile efforts, and ... that's a question that mobile enablement partners aren't capable of beginning to address."
Some companies use this data deficit to frame their mobile marketing strategies. For example, Wittier says The Hacker Group's clients, "are only interested in mobile activities that can be tracked through to incremental sales ... using mobile, for example, to generate calls and to generate leads that can be remarketed to and potentially even sent to other channels."
3. Which of these is acceptable permission to communicate via SMS?
Answer: d. Opt-in and Opt-out
"One hundred percent of SMS communications from brands must be opt-in. Period," says Harber. "It's also a requirement to make it clear to users how to opt-out."
"The mobile phone is more intimate than any other marketing medium," says Wittier. "Consumers will have no tolerance for misuse or abuse of permissions." He also points our that, legally, there could be punitive measures as well. "Assume that if you abuse it, you could face both Do-Not-Call and CAN SPAM ramifications."
Ricci agrees, and strongly suggests companies abide by the standards of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). He further says, "The opt-in needs to occur on the handset itself, and it must be specific to the brand that the consumers believe they are granting permission to. The fact that a mobile number may exist on an enterprise's CRM system does not mean the brand has permission to begin marketing to that consumer."
To keep permission, and prevent the government from potentially stepping in with privacy legislation, marketers must also show consumers their interaction is worthwhile. "Be transparent and provide value for the trust a consumer gives when providing his or her mobile phone number," says Morrow. "If it isn't of value, don't text it."
4. What primary advantage do apps have over mobile websites?
Answer: b. They optimize content for mobile operating systems
"The greatest frustration that consumers find today is being transported to a brand's broadband site and having to navigate that in a much smaller piece of real estate" on the mobile device's miniature screen, says Ricci. "The explosion of downloadable native apps for these platforms further underscores the fact that consumers expect a different experience on their mobile devices than they do with a brand's website."
Ricci emphasizes the "native" concept because apps allow marketers to tailor the experience to each specific mobile operating system for which the app is built. This goes hand-in-hand with tailoring it to the user's ideal mobile experience.
"If you're walking down the street trying to use an app on your mobile, you're not able to devote 100 percent of your effort to using it. You're probably not even using 100 percent of your hands," says Martin. "Apps need to be designed to take this into account to maximize the user experience."
Yelp is an example of good app design paying off, according to Martin. In May 2010, 27 percent of Yelp's searches came from its iPhone app, which had 1.4 million unique users—4 percent of its user base.
"The use case in this example is clear," says Martin. "When people are out and about, they're looking for businesses near where they are. The app needs to be designed to deliver this functionality as quickly and easily as possible."
While apps offer functional advantages, it's essential companies create them as part of an integrated mobile strategy. "Way too many brands have blown $20,000 to $50,000-plus on iPhone or Droid apps that don't yield meaningful engagement or achieve any business result," Morrow says. "Develop a mobile strategy and road map first. Then—and only then—select the mobile tools and technologies needed to achieve your business objectives."
5. What mobile devices do most American
Answer: a. Feature phones
If you're not familiar with the term "feature phone," it refers to regular cell phones that only have "features"—like a camera, a mostly text-based Web browser, etc. In other words, while apps and the mobile Web are hot topics, they only reach the third of the market who have adopted smartphones. For everyone else, their mobile phones are still best used for texting and actually making phone calls.
"While it might seem like everyone has an iPhone or Android these days, the truth is that the vast majority of US consumers still have feature phones," says Harber. "In order to best engage with smartphone and feature phone users, it's important to give consumers a choice and offer a number of different means of interaction."
"The pillars to a successful mobile program," according to Ricci, "begin with SMS. It's not only a ubiquitous means to reach 99 percent of the wireless universe, but also a means of facilitating discovery, driving acquisition and creating a permission-based relationship with the consumer. The second pillar is the mobile Web, because it addresses roughly a third of the wireless universe—and the key here is to have a mobile-optimized site that is focused on the unique browsing behavior of the mobile consumer. And finally, [the third pillar is] apps and other advanced mobile tactics that are appropriate for reaching very specific segments."
6. What technologies can integrate mobile with direct mail and other print marketing?
Answer: d. All of the above
While it's clear that you cannot treat mobile marketing as an extension of Web marketing, one of the reasons the technology is so interesting to direct marketers is precisely because of the avenue it gives non-digital material—like direct mail—to digital conversions.
Martin explains, 2D barcodes "enable you to directly link your offline channels to your mobile and, therefore, offer a more digital strategy." And Ricci points out that 2D codes aren't the first mobile technology to allow this—short codes and mobile URLs also can drive a print prospect directly to the Web to get more information, sign up or buy something.
"Brands that are focused on using mobile as a means of providing engagement in mediums that might normally be passive—print, at point of sale, broadcast, outdoor, etc.—are generally on the right track," says Ricci. "Marketers who understand that their mobile consumers are seeking convenience, utility and entertainment from these devices—and plan their sites/programs/tactics around this—are ahead of the game."