Anyone who attended or paid any attention to last week’s Consumer Electronics Show knows that the theme of the event was mobile. In fact, new buzzwords were coined just for the occasion. Young people are now “Generation M.” They are also “born mobile.”
I’m not a young person and I wasn’t born mobile. I was born immobile. I was born land-line. But we’re all mobile now, regardless of our date of birth. Today mobile cuts across all generations. Those of us who weren’t born mobile have rapidly assimilated.
Here are a few stats to illustrate the point:
- 172 million mobile subscribers in U.S.
- Smart phones account for 48% of subscriptions
- 24% of online shopping on Black Friday 2012 in the U.S. came from mobile devices
- 125 million mobile apps in production
Mobile devices are ubiquitous. Yet mobile campaigns are relatively scarce. The vast majority of retailers and consumer brands are just getting started when it comes to using the mobile channel to attract, retain and increase the value of profitable customers. I’m not referring to text messaging. I’m talking about mobile campaigns that actually deliver engaging customer experiences – and that do so on an ongoing basis.
The challenge with mobile has had a lot to do with the technology constraints related to building and managing mobile apps. Branded native apps – the ones that consumers download from the Apple’s App Store or Google Play – are expensive. The apps are specific to the operating system (iOS or Android) and require separate development efforts. The cost for multi-platform development can run into the six figures, making it a high-investment decision. Another drawback: marketers need to resubmit their apps with each incremental content update or feature modification. Each resubmission involves a wait period of a week or longer for approval before consumers can download the latest version to their mobile devices. Many don’t bother.
Despite these nuisances, native apps also have some big advantages over mobile websites. For starters, they run a lot faster and tend to offer much richer, more immersive and more memorable user experiences. Also, native apps can incorporate far more data capabilities, allowing marketers to include interactive features that leverage user personal profile information to interact in relevant, context-sensitive ways.
For marketers, the implications are clear. They need to maintain a strong mobile web presence. But that by itself isn’t going to drive the business outcomes they’re seeking in terms of customer engagement, customer loyalty and brand advocacy. In addition, therefore, they need to build and deploy a downloadable app – one that grabs and holds people’s attention.
Ideally, marketers would like to sit in the driver’s seat. They want to have their hands on the controls, with one eye on the dashboard so as to monitor progress and navigate accordingly. They want to be able to modify various aspects of their mobile campaigns based on performance. That means being able to tweak the digital assets and features that directly impact the user experience in a real-time manner.
Email marketing campaigns are now largely templatized and automated on a technology platform designed with marketers in mind. Why can’t mobile campaigns be just as easy to manage and monitor? That’s the goal. And it’s fast becoming a reality today thanks to technology innovation that leverages a hybrid approach to mobile app development. Marketers can combine the publishing flexibility of HTML5-based apps with the sophistication and mass distribution attributes of native apps into a single platform. Think of it as a mobile web browser housed in an “app wrapper.” Agile mobile apps combine the best of both worlds. They are cross-platform and the interface automatically resizes to fit different phone screens. They’re lightweight. They can integrate into existing CRM systems and other data sources to access all types of information, including past purchase data. Marketers can add new mobile features and content on the fly and also take advantage of push notifications to send personalized and context-sensitive messages and offers.
Agile mobile apps can take any number of forms, from polling questions and video games to customer satisfaction surveys, contests and couponing. One solution provider doing some great work in this area is FunMobility, which has been developing mobile engagement solutions for over 10 years. For more information on agile mobile apps, and to gain insights into best practices in mobile customer engagement, check out the new Deep Dive analyst report Harnessing the Power of Agile Mobile Apps to Engage with Consumers on the Go, which is now available for free download.