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GUEST OPINION Marketing your mobile channel using the power of advocacy

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The market is ready to consume via mobile. Many retailers are scrambling to harness the power of this channel, but how should they best market their new capabilities? Eric Abensur, CEO at Venda, offers some advice

According to ABI research, by 2015 consumers are expected to spend about $119 billion on goods and services purchased via mobile phones globally. Evidently, in the age of austerity, m-commerce may just be a retailer’s saving grace, so brands need to launch their mobile stores and reach their audience using the social aspects inherent to this technology.

M-commerce is a fast-paced, highly time-sensitive medium in which mobile shoppers are highly focused on completing a transaction. They know exactly what they want and they want to find it and buy it quickly and efficiently. Mobile phones bring together the unique ability to combine the social and mobile web, email and SMS, geo-location, voice and in-store experiences into a converged multi-channel shopping experience. This generates tremendous opportunity for retailers to extend their presence in new and creative ways, reaching into previously unattainable areas. It’s also these converging methods and social practices that retailers need to successfully manipulate in order to market their m-commerceinvestments and triumphs.

Primarily, retailers need to be aware that mobile technology is inherently social. Its sociable nature should be leading the arsenal in their marketing armoury – mobile devices allow accessibility to a user’s social circles at all times, are always connected to the social web and are themselves a constant companion. In effect, retailers should aim at making their target audience’s own mobile devices their brand’s marketing and sales reps. Let their social advocates do their speaking for them. We are moving from a world of impressions, to a world of engagement. Mobile marketers need to start and join the conversations with their audiences in order to drive traffic to their site.

Facebook claims that there are currently more than 200 million active users accessing the social network through their mobile devices. Furthermore, people that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users. Over half of the people currently on Twitter also recommend companies and products within their tweets. Consequently, to suit this mobile chatty market, retailers’ initial steps need to ensure they have a good social media strategy in place. This aims the brand firmly at the right target market; the social advocates and drivers of m-commerce.

The conversations that derive from social media sites continue to grow louder – it has become the way consumers engage, share information, make shopping decisions and offer recommendations. Consequently, marketing via social platforms needs to be relevant and of value in order for consumers to be invited into conversations with a brand, and welcomed into the mobile purchase cycle. Brands need to deploy engaging Facebook pages, run relevant Twitter feeds, advertise online offers and promotions as well as develop viral video and game campaigns optimised for mobile and tablet devices. In addition, they should allow customers to shop and share, and ultimately enable a commerce-enabled Facebook storefront.

Word-of-mouth, both on and off site will sell your product better than you do. An obvious statement, but if your customers are empowered to put their thoughts about your product and service into their own words and share these ideas, it will sell better and have a real impact on a new customer’s decision-making process. Optimised mobile sites need to allow the hosting of user-generated content, like reviews, to become mainstream. This creates brand advocacy and loyalty, and will also contribute to the website ‘authority’ element of the SEO puzzle as keyword density in ‘customer centric’ phrases will be more frequent and will enhance the overall customer experience with richer content. In our own experience, Venda has found that those products with reviews have far better conversion rates than those without reviews.

With the growing number of mobile devices equipped with GPS, location-based mobile marketing campaigns have proven to be pioneering ways in reaching an audience. Location-based mobile marketing has taken off over the past year, thanks to the rise and popular consumption of services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and O2 More. Using geo-fencing technology, such as O2 More, customers can now receive offers based on their location. This method partners certain geographical areas with particular brands, triggering messages to be sent to them publicising offers and products whenever the shopper enters the area. Starbucks, for example, implemented O2 More to offer discounts on Ready Brew instant coffee and L’Oréal ran a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Elvive shampoo.

Ultimately location-based marketing promotes and marries a brand’s mobile channel with its high-street counterpart helping to bring customers into shops and advertise the mobile clout of a retailer. According to ABI Research, the mobile location-based advertising market is set to be worth around $1.8bn in the US alone by 2015. The time to tap into this medium is obviously now.

Measuring your m-commercereturn-on-investment is also simple and easy. Google Analytics provides a web service to help track user interaction with websites and applications accessed from mobile devices. Retailers can use this to track regular traffic directed from high-end mobile devices like iPhones, Android devices, and the Palm Pre to their mobile websites. This valuable information can then be analysed to help feedback into the mobile experience, and fine-tune it for consumers.

Listen and engage with your consumer, ask what they want from a mobile store and deliver it to them through the social channels they are familiar with. Retailers need to focus on the power of attraction and advocacy, really pulling consumers to their mobile offerings, and ultimately letting them pull each other using social media.

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