Three Keys to Harness Mobile Marketing and Drive Consumer Engagement

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Visit any mall or store, or just walk down a busy street and take a look around. You’ll notice almost everyone, regardless of their demographic, heads down interacting with their mobile devices—whether it’s sending text messages, browsing Facebook, checking email or checking in on Foursquare. We are now a society of 24/7 connectivity. Simply put, mobile has become a critically important part of our daily lives.

Need proof? A recent CTIA survey revealed an interesting comparison: The total number of US wireless subscribers outnumbers the total population of the United States, 327.6 million vs. 312.4 million. The survey also found that smartphone and wireless-enabled PDA device usage rose from 61.2 to 95.8 million users since the middle of 2010. It wasn’t long ago when “mobile” meant just a phone. Now, nearly one third of Americans can receive the communications vehicle of their choosing—text, email, voice—on one device, and this number is expected to grow rapidly over the next year. And they’re taking it everywhere they go. According to a 2011 Mobile Commerce Daily survey, 50 percent of consumers currently use their mobile devices for shopping purposes.

The rise of mobile marketing presents a game-changing opportunity for retail, travel, entertainment, and other customer-facing businesses to drive more personalized, impactful marketing and loyalty efforts, in ways which were not possible until now. Businesses can engage, interact, and socialize with customers the way they want to be reached—a critical foundation for building customer loyalty.

Yet, capitalizing on the mobile revolution is a lot easier said than done. Here are three critical foundations for harnessing the power of mobile marketing:

  1. Create a customer database and understand preferences
    As the Field of Dreams adage goes, “If you build it, they will come.” The key is gaining your customer’s permission to communicate with them, commonly referred to as either “express consent” or “opt-in.”

    Besides being mandated by industry regulations, an express consent or opt-in database offers a unique perspective and insight of how customers shop, where they shop, how often they want to be contacted, and the brand or product information they prefer to receive. And no, we’re not just talking about collecting customer cell phone numbers. Mobile databases are the foundation for providing laser-focused, targeted communications consumers’ value most. You should be adding email addresses, postal mail addresses, dates of birth, and other demographic information to create a complete customer profile.

    Mobile databases are the foundation for providing laser-focused, targeted communications consumers’ value most.

    Certainly, most customers won’t simply volunteer this information, meaning businesses need to be strategic and creative. Online sign-up forms, surveys, in-store contests, sweepstakes, text-in offers, and coupon codes that can tie-back into existing customer databases are common practices towards building the most extensive customer lists.

    Growing a database is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. You should be continually updating customer information and preferences to ensure you’re gathering intelligence that matters for impactful engagement.

    Staying attuned to customer preferences and cadence of messaging is also critical. If you over-communicate, especially through non-specified channels, or with information they’re not interested in, then trust will be broken, thus increasing the probability of a customer opting-out. Once a customer opts-out of a mobile program, the chances of winning them back to mobile are small, if not almost impossible.

  2. Consider your communications and get creative
    Once an express consent database has been created, you should focus on unique ways to use mobile messaging to your advantage. This means customizing your communications with exclusive offers and being more creative in how you engage your customers—in order retain their attention and maximize the potential of mobile loyalty. The companies that have a proven record of success with mobile generally communicate with the customers once a week with exclusive offers for mobile recipients via SMS text. By taking this approach working as the baseline, you can then expand from here with different strategies and mobile technologies such MMS content, location-based services and POS bar-coded mobile couponing.

    Mobile marketing presents the opportunity to inform customers of sales and promotions in ways other forms of communication cannot. Traditional advertising relies on the push-marketing hope that consumers will get the message. Mobile offers companies a direct pull-marketing line to its audience, through a channel the customer has already expressed interest in, and opted-in to receive.

    Mobile offers companies a direct pull-marketing line to its audience, through a channel the customer has already expressed interest in, and opted-in to receive.

    Through the act of building a mobile database, you now can accurately measure which offers and promotions your customers respond to, and the products and services most important to each of them as unique individuals. Now you need to create campaigns based on those differences and preferences. The expanse of this technology is practically limitless and your creativity will only enhance its effectiveness. With consumers wading through as many as 3,000 or more marketing messages per days from so many different sources, thinking outside the box with your approach to mobile has proven to cut through the clutter.

    For instance, you can easily integrate location-based services, in which users can access coupons or discounts for coming into the store or integrate QR codes into print advertisements, taking consumers directly to promotions or other sales information on your website. The key is to not use mobile just to say you’re using mobile or because your CEO is, rightfully so, demanding you build a mobile app because the competition did. The key is to ultimately make mobile important to your bottom-line business. Have a long-term mobile roadmap and executable mobile strategy in place to communicate with your customer and to grow your mobile database. In the end it’s still about growing your brand and enhancing customer loyalty.

  3. Implement loyalty strategies and drive customer engagement
    The personalized landscape of mobile marketing provides an unprecedented opportunity to deliver the next generation of customer loyalty for marketers. Whether through location-based social media, mobile commerce, or in-store promotions, mobile marketing engages customers with your brand and keeps them coming back for more. It’s becoming as much a part of the process as the shopping cart these days. But getting customers’ attention and long-term commitment requires a focused strategy involving mobile at each customer contact point in the customer lifecycle using multiple vehicles: in-store, online, email, direct mail, and mobile devices.

    Incentivize consumers through the mobile channel. According to a recent Sybase and Mobile Marketing Association survey, 62 percent of consumers indicated they would be willing to make a purchase on their mobile device, if they were given incentives through means such as coupons, discounts and gift cards.

    62 percent of consumers indicated they would be willing to make a purchase on their mobile device, if they were given incentives through means such as coupons, discounts and gift cards.

    Mobile loyalty programs are an area where a sound strategy supported by targeted and strong incentives can really pay off. According to COLLOQUY, Americans are enrolled in an average of 18 loyalty programs. Instead of asking customers to carry yet another reward card, offer an option that allows customers to collect, store and view reward points on their mobile devices. This will give consumers more control of the program and encourage participation. Did you know consumers left $16 billion worth of loyalty reward points on the table in 2010? Use mobile trigger-based reminders to alert customers when reward points are about to expire and retrieve your piece of that $16 billion pie.

    Also, remember to reward customers for opting-in to your mobile program. By agreeing to opt-in, customers have raised their hand to hear from you and are providing valuable insight about themselves. You can then use this information to target personalized and unique product offers available exclusively to them.

The landscape of mobile marketing is rapidly changing. Creating a strategic mobile roadmap and establishing a quality relationship with a loyal customer is more affordable and attainable than ever. If you haven’t started, the time to engage and retain your customer base through mobile is now. If you’re not fully satisfied with your current mobile provider’s ability to invest in new technology or to scale with your growing demands, then find a new provider. There are many good ones out there. The fork in the road of mobile relevance is here for your organization. Which direction will you take?

Mike Romano
Mike Romano is the Vice President of Mobile Sales and Service for SoundBite Communications. He is responsible for identifying, developing and managing strategic partnerships for the mobile services business unit. Mike accelerates revenue and profitability by developing C-level relationships, building high-achieving sales teams and growing strategic partnership channels.

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