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WARNING: Why you shouldn't develop a mobile marketing strategy

22nd Aug 2013
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As a marketer, you need to ensure that your business is where your customers are. So if your customers have gone mobile, then the mobile device is clearly the place to be.

“There is no ignoring the fact that mobile is where your customers are,” says Keith Jopling, SVP at KAE. “A study by eMarketer estimates there will be 34.6 million smartphone users in the UK by 2014; that represents 53.7% of the population – not really a figure you would want to overlook.”

Indeed. But marketers need to tread carefully in the mobile world. While the smartphone is a gateway to direct contact with a vast proportion of the public, many people have a very personal relationship with their phones, and so clumsy attempts to engage with them on this platform can be viewed as deeply intrusive and therefore extremely damaging for your brand.

To complicate matters, Daniel Rowles, author of Mobile Marketing, and a course director for CIM on digital marketing, notes that the rapidly changing mobile technology, and our relationship with that technology, is constantly moving the goalposts for marketing.

“The mobile device bridges the online world and the real world – most of us have got Facebook on our phones and we check it numerous times of day, and we check our emails on it, so we’re a lot more connected to what’s going on,” he explains. “It is very personal, and it is becoming more personal. You’ve only got to think about how we feel when we lose our phone – that sense of displacement.

“Computer power is also going up and up so we can cram more power into smaller devices and do more with them. And that exponential curve is getting faster. So for marketers it is very easy to get lost in the tactics. But strategically this is changing, and society is changing, so keeping up with that as organisations is a real challenge.”

As Ilicco Elia, head of mobile at LBi notes: “Success doesn't come from investing in multiple seemingly random mobile projects anymore. And if you are unsure of the outcomes you are looking to accomplish you can't measure how well you've done. Because mobile is cross-discipline, there has to be a concerted effort to point everyone in the same direction, otherwise multiple people in multiple disciplines will pull in multiple directions, otherwise known as causing havoc.”

How to approach mobile

All of which raises the question of how marketers can therefore adopt a more sophisticated, structured and strategic approach to their mobile marketing efforts.

To lay the groundwork, Elia recommends comprehensively researching your customers and your capabilities.

“Conduct an audit of the experience you currently deliver to your customers via mobile channels and determine where you are leading and where you are falling behind; gather together all the mobile knowledge and assets to make sense of what you have at your disposal, and where you need to invest; evaluate whether your current technical infrastructure can support your mobile endeavours; define the audience you wish to speak to and the level of engagement you wish to have with them; and finally work out what you want to say and how you will be able to listen to your audience. This may sound familiar. Developing a ‘mobile marketing strategy’ is a lot like developing a good old ‘marketing strategy’, only with better, more engaging tools at your disposal.”

Chris Sykes, CEO of Volume, agrees that marketers don’t need to throw the rulebook out of the window: “In the digital world, the old rules of marketing still apply – know who you are talking to and make sure you are saying something of interest. The difference today is in the devices we use to send, receive and consume information; now we don’t necessarily have to physically go somewhere to make a purchase, we can do so on the move. This is just one of many behaviours impacted by the companionship of a mobile phone.”

As such, marketers need to understand both customers’ behaviour and their context. For example, the way one may consume content in the workplace may hugely differ to the way they consume it at home. It’s therefore vital to tailor your approach and tone of your messaging to suit the user’s full, wider context – not just their work one.

This means that marketers need to not only ensure that they are collecting information about their customers’ changing behaviours but also their location. And this raises further challenges that need to be considered as part of a more strategic approach to mobile.

“The challenge in marketing often relates to the quality and accuracy of your data, how you collect that data and how you use it legally,” continues Sykes. “Many people have more than one mobile device – a work phone, a personal phone, a tablet etc. More and more of us have multiple profiles across various social platforms. It’s therefore difficult to paint an accurate picture of someone without taking some time to collate all the information into a ‘single customer view’.”

Received and understood

But once this information is received and understood, the marketer can achieve terrific insight to steer mobile marketing efforts, from where they can add value to what corporate objectives should be through to which mobile technologies are most appropriate - something that is particularly useful given the amount of mobile platforms that can be used for marketing.

“If you look at it from a technology perspective it is complex, but when you start by looking at consumer behaviour first, you can define your objectives, and it gets a lot easier,” says Thomas Husson, VP and principal analyst at Forrester. “When you define your objectives you have to think is it about improving customer engagement, is it about increasing customer satisfaction or is it about acquiring new customers, or reducing costs of acquisition? There are plenty of objectives that mobile can be used for and once you clarify this, it is much easier to pick the right technologies. Otherwise you’re doing an app or QR codes just to see what happens.”

Jasper Bell, strategy consultant at Amaze, emphasises that there is no one size fits all when it comes to developing a strategy, but he suggests that overall there are four critical success factors that he sees in mobile programmes.

  • Being aware of what your current and target audience want from the mobile channel and how they are using it. “What can your core metrics tell you about your mobile base and what do you need to find from other sources? Your model must have a foundation in consumer need and behaviour to have any chance of delivering,” says Bell.
  • Being accessible on your core domain. “For some this means responsive design, for others a mobile site and for some a native app that delivers on a specific need or provides a discreet service. It all depends on your business model, legacy eco-system and the nature of content you offer.”
  • Being connected by taking advantage of content-hungry media and device consumption and 'being there' in the right situations. “This might be in store when consumers are accessing you via tablet, using their smart phone as a 'second screen' or on the move. Think about how you should offer situational value exchange and not simply serve-up the same meat and two veg. NFC cannot be ignored, consider if you can make it work in a retail context to provide dedicated information in a responsive manner.”
  • Being found. “You need to think about how you can use mobile to improve reach, find new audiences and create new revenue streams. This is where brands should really try to think beyond the obvious and identify media opportunities, partnerships and concentrate on their own 'local' and online to offline strategy. This is particularly key for retailers or those with a nationwide or global footprint.”

Marketing integration

Much of this foundational work has been about understanding your customers and being aware of how they interact with you – for instance, whether it’s via mobile, in-store or website. Once you have this complete picture of your customers’ activity and behaviour, then you are able to understand where mobile fits in your broader marketing strategy. And this is absolutely critical, because mobile doesn’t exist in a silo.

“You should think about how mobile is affecting all the things we’re already doing – how is it affecting search, mobile and email for example,” says Rowles. “We have a habit of saying ‘we have a marketing strategy, we’ve got a digital marketing strategy, and a social media strategy and a mobile strategy’ – and actually they should all be one and the same thing. It is looking at our target audience and seeing what channels they are using, what parts of traditional and digital media are proving relevant and then being in those places.”

“You can’t treat mobile in isolation because consumers don’t view it in isolation,” says Mike McGuire, VP of research for mobile marketing at Gartner. “They don’t look at a mobile device and think differently about your brand because they’re now on their smartphone. You can’t look at any of these channel in isolation because users are using mobile devices across everything, not just text and email. Facebook research showed that over 70% of their monthly traffic is coming through mobiles, not PC. You have to view it as the connective tissue across your multichannel or digital marketing efforts.”

He continues: “The opportunities are great with mobile but if you haven't thought about this integration across all of your marketing efforts, you run the risk of undoing everything you've done in your previous work with one poorly timed SMS offer or update through an app or web. If you're not getting that preference information that understands how consumers want to interact with you across mobile, you can undo a lot of good work you’ve put in place.”

Alex Meisl, chairman of mobile marketing agency Sponge and chairman of the UK Mobile Marketing Association goes further still in his advice.

“Businesses should not develop a mobile marketing strategy as this only reinforces the silo-mentality which is all too prevalent where companies tend to balkanise the different channels (online, off-line, social, mobile, etc),” he states. “A mobile strategy implies that customers tend to think in terms of channels, which is emphatically not the case. Smart businesses tend to look at their customers as increasingly mobile and therefore develop a strategy which recognises that mobile is the glue which brings together all the facets of their customer’s journey.”

Breaking down silos

So how can mobile be best integrated into the broader marketing strategy?

“I would argue that CEOs and CMOs should appoint integration as a specific job role or key goal,” says Jopling. “Digital teams now need to bring strategy, branding and marketing together for greater consistency rather than running these sectors in silos. Furthermore, you need to ensure all your platforms like mobile, online and the in-store are connected, thus giving your customers a seamless brand experience.”

Sykes adds: “Mobile marketing can be better integrated if you adapt and optimise your existing marketing assets and online real estate. For example, ensuring you atomise your content so it’s better represented and more easily consumed on a mobile device. Ensure your websites, micro-sites and landing pads are mobile-optimised for all the major mobile platforms. Create short forms for lead capture on a mobile device rather than taking the lengthy approach of filling out web forms. And finally, ensure your data is centralised not siloed and that the insights you gain from it are properly repurposed back into the ‘field’.”

McGuire elaborates on this last point. “You need to remove siloes of customer information. It is common to have a stack of customer information in your CRM system and another stack with the email/direct marketing folks, and so on. You need to harmonise the data – things like integrate your mobile opt-in databases with your existing CRM systems and making sure that your social information is integrated as well.”

He continues: “Strategically, you need to be thinking about measurement - so if you’re getting a lot of mobile traffic then start looking at that information and understanding are they mostly iOS devices or Android; smartphone vs. tablet. Understand how they're interacting with you and then start developing your holistic strategy. Measure first, understand and then figure out what it is to understand what the traffic's like. Then you can start making strategic decisions on how to best leverage the mobile channel for your particular campaigns or strategies that you have in place. Measure, then make sure that the data is sure to cross all of those and not stuck in siloes.”

Customer journey

Again, the key is to understand consumer behaviours and expectations. By having an unobstructed view of customer data across channels, marketers can achieve a better understanding of the customer journey – and where the mobile will best fit in this journey.

“It is really about forgetting about the technology and understanding customer behaviour,” says Husson. “Like what kinds of activities do consumers perform on a tablet, a laptop, in shops, how do they discover and explore products, what’s the best way to engage with them depending on where they are, and so on. Mobile can play a role on different parts of the customer journey, and some tools and media will be more effective at different stages for the discovery of products, so you have different media that you can use in terms of reach and depth.

“So if you really look at behaviours and expectations and understand and then try to define some of your objectives and see how mobile can help serve them, then you have the best way to include mobile in the mix. Look at where it adds value, and if it adds value then obviously you can integrate it. If it doesn’t then maybe you don’t need mobile.”

Rowles has two pieces of advice to better understand your customer journey. Firstly, and most obviously, speak to your customers. Secondly, take advantage of the huge amount of resources online that provide insight into how people are purchasing. Google, for instance, has done in-depth research with a number of organisations, mapping out the consumer journey and the business-to-business journey online. Google’s Think Insights has a huge range of case studies detailing what works and doesn’t work and a number of research tools that can provide data about smartphone use, and mobile commerce.

“It doesn’t need to be complicated – it is speaking to customers and using the tools that are already out there,” says Rowles. “For instance, a lot of the Google tools are looking at how people search and what words they’re searching for. You could look at the words that people search for on a desktop versus the ones they search for on a mobile device – you get two different sets of results. And you can try to do different things in different environments on mobile devices and get a good understanding of how people search differently and act different and this can really inform what it is that the consumer actually wants and therefore what you need to be providing and what you need to think about.”

Digital hub

According to Husson, there are growing signs that businesses are adopting an increasingly mature and sophisticated approach to mobile platforms.

“Even recently you would still see siloed approaches. There were lots of different divisions within an organisation that were interested in mobile – be it sales, communication or marketing. And there were a lot of mobile initiatives and one-off projects, but not necessarily a vision for the role that mobile should play in the customer lifecycle and how to integrate mobile as part of the mix. But this is changing and we see more and more 360 degree campaigns leveraging mobile when it adds value and specifically designed mobile experiences.

“And one of the reasons is also because mobile is becoming the new digital hub – when you look at social media, when you look at emails, or even video or TV, they are being accessed on the mobile device as well. So it is increasingly impossible to have a digital strategy that does not have a mobile component because mobile is really the new hub.”

Ultimately, mobile is only one touchpoint and understanding its role in relation to other channels, and as a sole channel, is key. But mobile is undoubtedly of particular significance in the overall marketing picture – as Husson describes it, ‘the digital hub’.

“It may be a cliché but mobile should sit in the centre of all your other marketing channels and campaigns,” concludes Elia. “It is the device people turn to in order to discover more about the billboard they just walked past. It is the device they have in their pockets as they walk to the restaurant table they booked using a voucher that was emailed. It is the device in their hands as they sit and watch the TV. You should use it to start the conversations you always wanted to have with your customers.”

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