Simon Robinson, senior marketing and alliances director Responsys EMEA, investigates how retailers can best exploit the mobile opportunity as part of an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy
In view of the rapidly growing smartphone and tablet markets, mobile strategies are becoming a key priority for retailers. The mobile channel gives companies the opportunity to communicate with customers on a personal level, making it an ideal marketing tool for retailers. If done correctly, contacting individuals via their handheld devices can add value to the shopping experience, leading to enhanced brand loyalty.
However, as one of the most personal channels to communicate with customers, retailers need to tread carefully. Recent research reveals that to truly engage customers, retailers need to ensure that mobile marketing is highly personalised and provides customers with a value-add offering. Mobile coupons, basic banners that recommend special offers and websites that are rendered for smartphones are all effective ways of using the mobile channel as part of an integrated marketing strategy.
The rise of the cross-channel consumer
Today’s cross-channel consumers know the information that marketers are collecting about them and expect them to use it. To communicate with customers effectively retailers need to collect holistic data profiles on customers that reveal the information they are interested in receiving, and the channels that they prefer to use. Whether that is via direct mail, email, mobile, the web or social networks, marketers must have the tools available to map this highly complex landscape out at a customer level, and easily automate the process for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Tap into vital data
Ultimately, successful mobile marketing relies on the efficient and effective use of data. Often marketers struggle to get a single view of the customer, so disparate elements of a company need to work together and share information for retailers to create truly personalised, relevant and dynamic campaigns that will be successful. Tools such as web analytics, ratings, reviews and recommendation engines can all be used to help collect customers’ behavioural data.
This data can then be aggregated and analysed to generate accurate customer profiles that connect customer behaviour with successful marketing efforts. Data from different sources, including web browsing, social networks and purchasing history also needs to be collated to gain a single view of the customer. Combining the information across all channels helps provide a more accurate portrayal of the customer and creates a more holistic marketing process connecting all the different channels for higher-impact marketing.
Mobile as part of cross-channel
Mobile is now being used to supplement other marketing channels and a survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently revealed that 88 per cent of client-side marketers say they will use mobile marketing by the end of this year. With major online retailers currently promoting themselves through SMS subscriptions, iPhone apps or mobile sites, it’s vital that mobile marketing is integrated into a cross-channel strategy and isn’t left as a siloed form of engagement.
Mobile offers great opportunities to learn more about the customer preferences of consumers and how to best communicate with them over a range of channels. It also provides an opportunity for retailers to attract attention through dynamic comment that offers an engaging experience. When individuals are targeted with relevant information and offers that are based on their interests and preferences, retailers have the potential to drive brand engagement and increase revenue at all stages of the customer lifecycle. By incorporating mobile into a joined-up approach, marketers can rest safe in the knowledge that their campaigns meet the preferences of consumers, no matter where they are.
Email drives mobile
Combining mobile with email as part of a joined up cross-channel strategy is particularly powerful. The introduction of smartphones and the development of touchscreen interfaces, has made it easier for individuals to interact directly with content in emails and click through on to the retailers website. Emails formatted for smartphones with images and graphics can convey more than a text message, and are less invasive. Emails also have the added benefit of being easier to deliver than implementing a separate channel for mobile, and they can be read from a traditional PC as well as a mobile device. The email experience from a smartphone is now more attractive to customers, and the potential for transaction growth is huge.
Email is established, ubiquitous and inexpensive, making it the ideal partner for other channels. However, since today’s cross-channel customer is more dynamic, informed and unpredictable than ever, email should not be used in isolation.
Integrate with social networks
Brands are increasingly finding their feet on how best to integrate mobile communications and social networks. A number of businesses have successfully attracted email subscribers to their social network pages thanks to ‘join our network’ campaigns. ‘Share with your network’ functionality is also proving a popular way for subscribers to share email content with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. The advantages of attracting consumers to these initiatives is that the content is then driven by customers themselves, as opposed to being filled with brand endorsed messages.
Use trigger SMS campaigns
SMS should form part of a cross-channel communication campaign to support email and drive adoption of other channels such as social media and web. SMS is a critical gateway between traditional media, such as TV and direct mail and new media, including social networks and video. The right tool will enable retailers to automate multi-stage and cross-channel dialogues, offering a greater return on investment and increased customer engagement.
Develop mobile websites
Individuals are now more likely to use their mobiles for browsing the internet, connecting with friends on social networks and reading emails. Nearly a quarter of retailers (22 per cent) recognise that at least some of their subscribers are viewing emails on a mobile device and as a result now provide a link to mobile-friendly versions of their websites. For example, car rental company Dollar Thrifty saw rising demand from customers to access their services from smartphones. The company responded by developing a mobile strategy to enable customers to book cars directly from their mobile device.
Key to a successful mobile marketing strategy is permission. In the past, retailers have noticed that mobiles are a very personal tool and customers are reticent to marketing delivered over this channel. Mobile contact is only truly effective when customers indicate that they are happy to be contacted in that way. More importantly to gain their trust, once a customer gives permission to be contacted via their mobile device, it’s crucial that retailers ensure every interaction is relevant and engaging.
South West Airlines is one example of a company using permission for mobile marketing effectively. The airline uses location-based technology to target and communicate with customers via its mobile device when they are at the airport. Rather than optimising its website for mobile or creating a mobile application to allow customers to enter their email preferences while at the airport, the company encourages customers to text in their mobile number and email address, giving South West Airlines permission to contact them through both channels.
Adding mobile to a set of preferred channels and using only those channels to contact customers in the way that they want to engage helps to increase loyalty. However, many brands still struggle to monitor a user’s engagement with the brand and segment customers accordingly. We recommend marketers set up preference centres that encourage customers to provide information that can be used to target them with specific and engaging content. This needs to be taken one step further, with separate strategies designed to target different groups, for example, engaged or disengaged customers.
Maintain regularity to stay connected
While regular interaction is important to maintain a dialogue with customers, retailers need to be careful not to intrude or the relationship could be lost. Because of the intimacy and urgency associated with SMS marketing, it’s important the mobile channel is only used for offers that are both personal and time-sensitive, alongside other channel preferences.
The proliferation of smartphones shows no sign of waning and, as consumers continue to engage with mobile devices in new and dynamic ways, developing the right strategy is vital. Using permission, as well as channel preferences to communicate with customers in the way they want will ultimately improve their mobile experience, leading to long-term customer value. In order to create long term customer value, marketers must prioritise consumers channel preferences and permissions to optimise the mobile experience. However, mobile must not be used in isolation of other channels if retailers are to gain a better understanding of how mobile fits in with an integrated cross-channel marketing communications strategy.