Making sense of mobile mania
The growth in mobile device usage is startling, with Ofcom stating that 58% of the UK population now owns a smartphone, a huge take-up rate in just five or six years. While this presents an enormous opportunity for brands, the ROI from mobile marketing has so far been inconsistent and many businesses are struggling to provide the personalised mobile offering which consumers are clamouring for.
All businesses know that the most common complaint about marketing is that it is too often irrelevant and impersonal. To some extent this was inevitable in a world where brands could only make educated guesses about where their target audiences spent their time (whether physically or in terms of what media they consumed).
But mobile means educated guesses can be replaced by precise, real-time understanding. The internet-enabled devices in everyone’s pockets give brands the opportunity to serve up tailored marketing when people are in the right location and the right frame of mind to receive those messages.
At a time when the high street is under pressure, this is a particularly significant opportunity for bricks-and-mortar retailers which should be at the top of their marketing agenda, if it isn’t already. Mobile use in store, together with the installation of instore WiFi, provides marketers with a chance to deliver personal messages to their customers which build loyalty and drive extra sales, not irritate and alienate them.
To do this, high street brands need to overcome any reluctance they might have to embrace mobile. Online shopping has educated a generation of consumers in comparing prices and product spec before they buy and the nationwide 3G and now 4G network means they can do this when they’re on the high street too. Retailers can’t avoid this challenge but they can compete against it, not just in terms of outstanding service and product expertise that an online store cannot offer, but through special offers, loyalty schemes and targeted marketing that all capitalise on the power of mobile.
We can only do this because of the fundamental importance of smartphones to today’s consumers. Wherever you go on the high street, you see people with their phones in their hands, checking their social networks to see what their friends are saying, catching up on the latest news, and using apps to share their location, their feelings and their photos. Any dwell time or down time – from 10 minutes spent drinking a coffee to 10 seconds waiting in a queue – is an opportunity to check their phone.
This is a huge opportunity for brands to reach consumers when they’re close to, or even in, their venue. But how should brands try to capitalise on this in practice? I think there are five key lessons.
First, brands need to commit to the full potential mobile has to help them understand consumers. Technologies like WiFi allow businesses to collect quite granular data on how customers are using the internet – what sites they visit, how long they are spending online, what type of device they are using and what time of day they do so. In using this anonymised data, they can vastly improve their mobile marketing’s success rate – ensuring that they are targeting the right customers, with the right messages, at the right time.
But doing this properly leads into the second and third lessons. High street brands need to invest in their data and analytics capabilities so they can make the most of the insight mobile data can give them – and ideally specialist data skills need to be integrated into marketing departments so that lessons can be learnt and acted upon. Next, mobile data needs to be joined up with the other data sets a brand might have, such as sales data, to properly enhance its understanding of customers.
Fourthly, experimentation needs to be encouraged. Most brands are still learning about what marketing methods have the greatest impact and testing is the only way to find out what works. At the moment some high street retailers and leisure outlets are experimenting with tailored marketing messages based on device type and time of day (an ad at 8am should reach an audience in a very different frame of mind to one served 12 hours later, for instance). But not enough marketers are making the most of these opportunities.
Finally, brands should think about mobile as a revenue opportunity as well as a marketing one. In-store WiFi, for instance, requires customers to pass through a venue-branded landing page. Not only does that page provide real estate for special offers, it also allows companies to sell ad space to sympathetic, non-competitive brands – something that would help enhance the useful, personalised service consumers are yearning for.
Vince Russell, managing director, The Cloud