How much time do you spend on your smartphone or tablet each day? If you’re like most people, you’re staring at a mobile device for three hours daily – about 20% of the time you’re awake. It’s no wonder marketers see a huge opportunity to create loyalty and win business.
“Everything in a customer’s world is becoming mobile – it’s where they’re communicating and planning,” says Jamie Turner, author of Go Mobile and consultant for CNN, AT&T and Coca-Cola. “The vast majority of people are already shopping via mobile as well, and it’s important that marketers meet them where they are.”
It’s no surprise Turner believes mobile is the future of marketing. He’s fond of pointing out that of the 6.8 billion people on Earth, 4 billion use mobile phones, while just 3.5 billion use toothbrushes. But, of course, no number of staggering stats like this will help your company leverage mobile technology, unless you make a plan and commit to it. “You have to determine your goals, and make sure everything you’re doing with mobile points back to fulfilling those,” Turner says.
So, then, what should your specific mobile strategy be? Turner spoke to Counselor about steps ad specialty firms – big and small – should be taking to engage and interact with today’s always-on-the-go customers.
Counselor: The whole idea of mobile marketing can be overwhelming. Where should a company start?
Turner: The very first thing a company should do is make sure its website is optimized for mobile. Depending on the functions of a site, this could mean using responsive design – which is a fancy way of saying a webpage should fit the screen of a mobile device just like it does on a desktop. It could also mean going with a mobile-specific site. Either way it accomplishes the goal of making a digital home base accessible to customers where they’re comfortable: on their mobile devices.
Counselor: So what’s the easiest way businesses can launch a mobile version of their website?
Turner: There are applications to help create mobile sites, and platforms like Wordpress and Drupal have responsive elements built in. However, you get what you pay for, and sites require a lot of maintenance. The best bet is to really hire a development firm that specializes in mobile.
Counselor: Sounds expensive.
Turner: If you want a basic, primarily informational interface, it will likely cost just a couple thousand dollars. But if you want gamification, in-app purchases, push
notifications, login, hardware access, sharing, or other advanced features – those things can add up. The most robust and well-designed apps cost upward of $100,000.
Counselor: Alright, let’s move on to SMS and MMS marketing. What tools are available to help companies reach customers and prospects with texts?
Turner: My favorite is SUMOTEXT, which offers a pretty robust dashboard with great targeting options, and its capabilities go far beyond the opt-in/opt-out of other tools.
Counselor: How exactly should businesses be using this type of service?
Turner: Understand this: People are very proprietary with their cell numbers. It’s one thing to be served an ad on a mobile site, but to have SMS access to a client is a high privilege. In order for the customer to think the relationship is worth that access, you have to make sure you’re only messaging someone when there’s real value. Make sure that you’re offering exclusive discounts or personalized recommendations and deals when you text someone as a brand.
Counselor: Can you give an example of offering real value?
Turner: Let’s say you run a shop that offers login functionality and requires users to provide a mobile number. You should first ask for permission when the account is created to text special offers. Then, when a customer looks at a product for a while – maybe at various colors of a T-shirt – but doesn’t immediately purchase, you can use a service to text them saying, “Hey Jane! If you’re still interested in our Butterfly shirt, click here and use the code VIP123 for 15% off.” Then provide the link. This way, you’re providing an SMS-exclusive deal and personalizing content, making the ultra-personal access worth it to the customer.
Counselor: It’s time to talk apps. How should companies determine if they need one or not?
Turner: The first thing to do is to ask why you think you need an app. If the answer is simply, “because all the big brands have one,” or “they’re trendy and will appeal,” then you’re probably looking at the wrong option. Optimize your mobile website first. The truth is that e-commerce and blogs are just as effective on mobile-optimized websites as on native applications. Serving up highly-targeted ads is usually better than creating a deal of the day app. The reality is apps need to be looked at in the long-term as well. You can release an awesome app with cool features or a fun game, but if it never changes or updates with new or different aspects, people will get bored very quickly.
Counselor: You sound a little down on apps.
Turner: Just saying that if you’re going to build an app, it needs to have a very specific and necessary function that has long-term potential. Look at the most successful brand apps. Chipotle’s scarecrow game was a fun challenge that ended in a coupon, but it’s done now. No one’s talking about it anymore. On the other hand, take an app like Groupon’s. Not only can you browse and purchase like on the mobile site, but you can receive personalized recommendations via push notification and even use your phone to redeem deals. Another general rule of thumb: apps generally don’t do well for customer acquisition. They’re more of a retention tool.
Counselor: OK, let’s say a company decides developing an app is worth it. What decisions will execs most likely have to make?
Turner: The first thing is to assess goals – and not just their marketing goals. What are business goals as related to this application? How will it support the overall company goals? Once you can answer that, you can select a developer who understands those goals and can innovate.
Counselor: What should a company look for in a developer?
Turner: Don’t choose a developer who will simply nod his or her head and do what you want. Pick someone who is innovative and passionate. A good developer will help you figure out the app’s architecture, design, user customization and personalization, settings and back-end maintenance. You’ll want to make sure your developer offers ongoing support. Trust me, you’ll need it. Mobile apps require updates, patches and more to keep your audience happy.
Counselor: Have QR codes run their course?
Turner: QR codes are definitely all but dead. Especially with the rise of beacon technology for in-store promotions, there are far fewer good places to use them than when they first came out. The benefit is that they are highly trackable, meaning remarketing is easier, but they don’t encourage highly personal brand engagement, and they don’t fit well into most designs. You’re better off directing users to a native app or mobile-optimized site to receive discounts or view promotions. Granted, this can be done via QR code, and they are fairly inexpensive to produce and use.
Counselor: Push notifications pop up a lot on cell phones. What should marketers know about them?
Turner: Push notifications are alerts that show up on the home screen of a smartphone. They come exclusively with native apps, and users should have the opportunity to turn them off if desired. However, push notifications via native app offer advertisers a unique opportunity when paired with beacon technology.
Counselor: What’s the opportunity?
Turner: With beacons, users can receive special offers or information as soon as they cross the boundaries of a predetermined physical location. This could be a store, a restaurant, an airport – you name it. The establishment would have a beacon in place that can recognize users who have the app and present them with special deals, incentivizing engagement with the app and, consequently, the brand.
Counselor: What’s the best mobile marketing campaign you’ve seen recently?
Turner: General Motors did a terrific campaign last year that tied into the Super Bowl. GM used a cross-platform campaign, with smartphones, tablets and TV, to capture the audience’s attention and keep them engaged with the campaign.
Counselor: What future technologies will most influence mobile in the next five years?
Turner: One of the biggest things right now is the big data available to optimize targeting. Various companies have been collecting information about users’ behaviors, locations, demographics, histories and industries for years, and they’re starting to use them to target very specific audiences in advertising. A lot of this technology was actually developed by and for the government, and it’s just now starting to be used for marketing purposes. This should obviously excite advertisers because it means reaching audiences most likely to engage with brands in the long-term. The important thing is to partner with media companies that are excited about these opportunities and have a knack for creative targeting. We use a company called 4INFO, and the people there are always up for piecing together advertising channels to achieve the best target audience possible.
Counselor: What’s changing with this kind of targeted approach?
Turner: Customers are often hesitant to be excited about this extreme targeting, but it’s a really exciting thing. It means people don’t have to look at ads any more that have nothing to do with them. Instead, advertisers are so excited to engage with customers that they’re targeting us with things we actually care about, and they’re giving us discounts and special opportunities along the way.
Counselor: Any final mobile tips?
Turner: Partner with the right vendors. If you can find developers and media agencies that are creative and passionate about what you’re doing, your campaign will be a lot more successful.
Also, don’t be afraid to try new things. The beauty of mobile is that it’s not like a billboard. It’s a lot easier to take it down if it’s not working, and you won’t have already blown your budget. Trial-and-error becomes more feasible with the digital age, and it’s an important process since so many new technologies and opportunities come up all the time.