It has been said that where Google goes these days, people follow. So when Ian Carrington, Google’s director of mobile marketing, told an audience during the Changing Media Summit in London last year, “If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a future strategy,” marketers paid attention.
Fast-forward the clock to 2012 and a Marketing Magazine interview and it is clear his opinion has not wavered: “Advertisers … have to grow up and realize the mobile Web is just as important to their business [as apps] and should very much be a consideration for what their mobile strategy should be.”
Mr. Carrington’s recent comments come at a time where mobile, specifically smartphones and tablets, are enjoying high adoption rates and even higher popularity.
Media research firm Nielsen may have called 2011 “The Year of the Mobile,” but in only a few short months, it is amazing how antiquated that label seems.
Considering that the company’s latest research shows that smarphones made up nearly half of all United States mobile phones in February 2012 suggests that going forward, christening years with tech titles might be a bit premature.
Like no other marketing tool before it mobile is the ideal medium to improve customer service and, through heightened customer feedback and shopper metrics, instill greater loyalty.
Today’s North American Internet-using population stands at 273,067,546 and smartphones already comprise around 30 percent of worldwide mobile phone subscribers and is rising daily.
More than half of the U.S. mobile market is already dominated by customers relying on 3G access, while globally one in five mobile subscribers are running on 3G speeds and faster.
With data indicating that today’s Web-accessible mobile phone users spend nearly three hours per day on their wireless devices, there is a continuing incentive for companies to ramp up their mobile customer services.
In other words: relying solely on traditional short message services (SMS – or what has long been considered the backbone of mobile strategy) will shortchange both you and your customer.
Instead, expanding into new wireless channels such as QR codes, advanced augmented reality apps or multichannel techniques, for instance, is another way to make the rest of 2012 and beyond more mobile still while improving customer service and driving loyalty.
And speaking of multichannel techniques, there is also the burgeoning arena of digital signage and its mobile phone importance.
Unlike static standalone signs, digital signs are increasingly linked to mobile devices via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity and can deliver a wealth of customer-specific promotions, coupons and redemptions, and all of it based in real-time and location-aware.
When it comes to driving loyalty, nothing is more valuable than delivering to customers relevant and timely messages and information that they can act on immediately.
For the marketer, instant feedback helps paint a metrics picture that can be used to create an even more tailored experience during the next engagement.
Room for improvement
To be sure, for all the excitement and “mobile has reached a tipping point” chatter in the first quarter of 2012, it is important to remember that 2011 was already very mobile. And so was 2012.
After essentially putting the power of mobile on the map, companies continue expanding their mobile efforts and have taken them far beyond a basic SMS blitz incorporating location-aware campaigns and engaging rich media experiences.
Despite that momentum, many companies have yet to jump on board the mobile bandwagon or have yet to use it to its full potential.
In a 2011 survey from King Fish Media for instance we learned that 62 percent of survey respondents planned to launch a mobile marketing campaign within the next year, while only a third of companies already had a mobile communications strategy in place.
And since 2012 still has a long way to go, it is likely that many marketers still have not gotten the mobile message. And like any New Year’s resolution, they are easy to make and even easier to break – either by not following through on their mobile campaign plans or by launching those plans incorrectly.
But many of the ones that succeed will do so in part because they established loyalty using great customer service.
Think of loyalty and mobile customer service like an equation. Improved customer service, plus improved customer feedback equals greater loyalty.
Focusing on the positive, what follows is a look at ways in which businesses can build brand loyalty through the fusion of mobile and customer service.
Streamlining customer experience with mobile
Think that your customer service practices and your mobile customer service programs are fully integrated with one another? You might be mistaken.
Last year, a TeaLeaf study called mobile “the worst channel for customer experience,” stated that 83 percent of customers surveyed in Britain reported that they have encountered a problem when using mobile checkout.
While no comparable study was completed in the U.S., the results are telling.
Mobile has far to go in providing high quality customer service, particularly with many company mobile initiatives struggling to take shape in such a fast-paced environment.
Marketers responding to rising consumer smartphone adoption, however, have an opportunity to deliver tailored programs and technology that ultimately drive loyalty.
What makes up the ideal customer experience?
The best mobile experiences are the ones that use best practice and keep important demographics in mind. These are the areas most important to fine-tuning an agreeable customer experience via mobile, the type that builds loyalty through ease of use and intelligent design.
Letting the customer guide the experience. Before making changes, ask yourself how each change affects customer interaction with your company. How will the changes you make to your customer service affect the customer experience?
Maximize the multichannel map. Customer service levels should be consistent across all channels, with the ability for customers to easily interact with representatives as needed. The customer should be able to transition between channels without difficulty.
In an SMS or mobile app message, for instance, include a link to your company Web site and phone number for customers to speak with live help.
Nothing speaks like the voice of authenticity, so the saying goes, and sometimes even the most mobile-savvy customers welcome the opportunity to sort out a problem with a real person.
Even if a consumer is left dissatisfied by a specific experience, quality customer service, both traditional and mobile, increase the odds of loyalty purchases at a later date.
Offering valuable mobile additions. Listening to customer response is a vital part in the creation or revamping of the mobile medium.
Since reviews and feedback shape the customer and repeat customer experience, this data can be used to formulate mobile strategy. This is particularly important in healthcare and service providers’ cases, as they often provide lower-rated customer service experiences.
Making service a priority. Quality customer service benefits companies greatly, and as its importance is realized more widely, this should become a top priority.
In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace it is hard enough finding customers, let alone keeping them. All it takes is one ill-timed message before a potential buyer tunes your message out and goes elsewhere.
But once you have gained that loyalty, the strategies above can be used to boost your competitive advantage.
Loyal customers buy more and shop more often, making them more profitable than new ones.
If we can simply use appropriate customer service strategies to attract and retain the customers we want – the ones who are most valuable to us – then we will soon see retention numbers rise accordingly.
THE BOTTOM LINE: be aware of your customers’ needs. By understanding what they want, you can arm new mobile services with plans for top support and consistency.
As we continue through the rest of 2012 there is no doubt that many companies – even the majority – are at least in some formative stage of building and expanding their mobile outreach.
Others have gone well beyond their beta versions.
Mary Meeker, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, told us back in October 2011 that the number of Fortune 1000 companies that are launching mobile ad campaigns grew from 203 in July 2011 to 250 this past September, a 23 percent increase – and the trend is upward.
Regardless of what stage they are in, however, there is always some aspect of mobile marketing and customer service that can be improved upon to attract and retain customers.
Loyalty boosted by mobile is an ideal way to forge ahead, because with mobile use growing and changing, we can expect grand returns – and soon.
If Nielsen termed 2011 “The Year of the Mobile,” and a Google Guru continued to hammer home the importance of mobile this year, it is clear that any business without a mobile strategy, and certainly one that integrates with building customer loyalty, is going to be left behind.
SMS is now a top channel in the mix, but there are still misunderstandings in terms of how campaigns should be implemented.
I thought I’d share my version of the 10 Commandments of Mobile Marketing to set some guidelines for how brands should be utilizing the power of text to reach that mobile audience.
1. THOU SHALT NOT SEND SPAM
Be aware of sending text messages to users who have not subscribed to receive them. Also, the rule of thumb is to send no more than four messages per month to subscribers to avoid being marked as spam.
2. THOU SHALT INCLUDE A CALL-TO-ACTION
Don’t leave it up to the subscriber to know what they need to do next. Make sure your mobile call-to-action includes relevant contact details and clear instructions telling them what they need to do.
3. THOU SHALT PROVIDE VALUE
You have the opportunity to reach consumers on the one device they are connected to all the time. Don’t blow it! If you want customers to interact with your brand, you need to make their experience worthwhile. It’s really easy for them to click “unsubscribe” if they feel like they aren’t getting anything out of their subscription. Don’t let it get to that point.
4. THOU SHALT OPTIMIZE, TEST AND COMPARE
When sending out text broadcasts, take into consideration the day of the week, time of day and message content to see which will elicit the best response. Test out a few different types of messages and play around with the day and time that you send them. In doing that, you can weed out the underperformers and move forward with the ones that garner success.
5. THOU SHALT MOBILIZE THY WEBSITE
There’s nothing more embarrassing than a mobile call-to-action that isn’t optimized for mobile. If you’re taking the time to engage a mobile audience through text message marketing, you better make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
6. THOU SHALT MARKET THY CALL-TO-ACTION
Sure, you created a text message marketing campaign. Now what? You won’t be successful in building your subscriber database unless you learn how to promote the campaign. Use social media, flyers, table tents, or whatever else is out there in order to spread the word. After all, no one will opt-in to your campaign if they don’t know about it.
7. THOU SHALT REWARD LOYAL CUSTOMERS
Loyalty is built through good experiences, trust and that feeling of importance. Loyalty also leads to customer retention. So how do you get these loyal customers? Let them know you appreciate them. Sending rewards to your most loyal customers lets them know exactly how much you value their business, and THAT will keep them coming back for more.
8. THOU SHALT MEASURE RESULTS
Just like with any marketing tool, it’s critical to measure the success of a mobile marketing campaign to evaluate what needs to be adjusted in order to meet objectives. Tracking opt-ins, opt-outs, conversions and ROI will help determine the value of the campaign and the importance of the channel going forward.
9. THOU SHALT OBEY LAWS AND REGULATIONS
Text message marketing is not a free-for-all. Campaigns must comply with laws governing unwanted spam texts, as spam complaints can lead mobile carriers to block a retailer from sending future messages on their network. Also, make sure to be explicit with the campaign’s “terms and conditions” so you don’t run into legal problems down the road.
10. THOU SHALT FOLLOW ALL COMMANDMENTS
Even though these commandments aren’t inscribed on a stone tablet, take them seriously. Failure to do so will likely result in the demise of your campaign. Mobile marketing isn’t rocket science. Just play by the rules, and nobody will get hurt.
Just as loyal coffee enthusiasts can’t get enough Starbucks, the folks at Starbucks can’t seem to get enough of anything related to mobile.
From mobile apps to mobile payment platforms, Starbucks is on the vanguard of mCommerce advancements that may soon be far more pervasive throughout the retail space than they presently are.
According to new details that have come to light this week, Starbucks has already processed more than 42 million mobile payments. That’s not bad considering that the program just began last year.
In December 2011, Starbucks revealed that it had processed 26 million mobile payments. Adoption continues to grow exponentially, the company said.
“You’re going to see us as a company that will push the envelope around mobile pay,” Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman told VentureBeat. “We want to innovate in that area before others catch up.”
Text Marketer published a new infographic that stresses seven things to avoid when creating an SMS marketing campaign, covering everything from call-to-actions, subscriptions, customers, segmentation and important rules to follow.
What does the future hold for digital couponing? This article takes a look at the growth of coupons in the past decade, touching on daily deal sites, mobile couponing and social sharing.
Couponing had seen unprecedented growth in the past decade due to a combination of factors — one of which was the economic recession in the U.S., combined with an increased consumer interest in mobile technology and devices.
Because of this, marketers began to heavily fund digital platforms. The coupon industry, specifically, saw record growth within the digital realm, and by 2010, SavingStar estimated that “49 million people used printable or digital coupons.”
The benefits digital interactions offer coupon companies are vast. For starters, online couponing allows for great promotion and wider distribution for brands. It also provides companies with better reach and the ability to track consumer preferences and patterns. Data from Leo J. Shapiro and Associates determined that the digital coupon consumer base was primarily comprised of young married couples with disposable income. Groupon has targeted this demographic, lending digital couponing a social reputation.
Daily deal couponing continues to be a popular tool among consumers and marketers, and many major companies have implemented their own version of the trend.
What Business Owners Need to Know About Daily Deal Couponing
Although intriguing for consumers, daily deal platforms like Groupon have not always been beneficial for business owners, who often see a spike in business but little customer retention.
A Rice University study found that 66% of the 150 businesses surveyed reported that Groupon promotions were profitable. However, more than 40% of the organizations said that they wouldn’t run a Groupon offer again.
Daily deal platforms have revealed the social nature of contemporary couponing. For example, Cornell University reported that many Groupon users see themselves as “marketing mavens,” and “on the front edge of market trends and price information.”
Additionally, users claimed in the survey that they would not have tried a restaurant or store without a coupon offer. Contemporary couponing has highly influenced social branding, greatly increasing the popularity of daily deals.
1. Social Leads to Social Sharing
The social, daily deal strategies made popular by sites such as Groupon and Living Social have certainly spawned many copycat initiatives within the digital couponing realm.
One such example is SocialTwist, a platform that states it “allows users to share in order to receive a better bargain.” Basically, consumers can turn a $1 coupon into a $4 coupon simply by sharing it with four other people.
This method will likely continue to increase in popularity in 2012 — we already saw evidence late November 2011, when Foursquare announced it would incorporate a new “social sharing” button on its site.
2. Getting Mobile-Ready
Given these newer strategies, companies are mobilizing their virtual and physical platforms to better reach and retain these social, mobile customers. Most companies are aware that their mobile presences have to be dynamic and user friendly. With roughly 91% of the population using mobile devices and 26.3% accessing the Internet, it is important to have a mobile site for on-the-go reading and utilization.
Additionally Google reported that 95% of smartphone users have searched for local information, proving that location-based, deal searching is vital to digital couponing.
The same study found 38% would use a mobile device to find a store location, 34% to compare prices, 28% to research deals and coupons, and 27% to find a product review.
3. Resolving Mobile Couponing’s Redemption Pitfalls
Mobile couponing, an obvious extension and result of digital distribution, has been popular despite its “mechanical” issues. With the rise of digital coupons, there was also a surge in consumers who used their mobile devices to reference coupons visually on their smartphones. Unprepared for this development, the redemption process, such as the scanning of digital coupons on mobile devices, has proven difficult until recently.
“Mobile coupon redemption has always struggled with ensuring a seamless experience at the point of sale,” says reporter Steve Smith. So, business giants like Walgreens are “retraining salespeople to handle the process and equipping stores with hardware that can recognize 2D codes on LCD displays.” This nationwide initiative was just launched and underwent testing during the 2011 holiday season.
Walgreens released an app for iOS, BlackBerry and Android, which includes a new coupons section that issues up two to three new exclusive weekly deals for customers using the mobile apps.
Rich Lesperance, head of digital marketing and merging media for Walgreens, told Media Post that “the program is the largest deployment of in-store mobile coupon scanning of which he is aware.”
Looking Ahead to the SoLoMo Strategy
In short, the “social-local-mobile” trend is the next cutting edge move for digital businesses, and a necessary consideration for coupon brands. SoLoMo gets specific when it comes to targeting your ideal market and allows your ideal consumer to find you. The combination is a win for both parties, as well as the logical next step for consumer activity based on current digital engagement.
Many large retail brands are starting to manage their mobile marketing development in-house, instead of using service providers. How will this change affect mobile marketing in the future?
One guess would be that the competition would increase greatly with less fish – a.k.a brands – in the sea looking for services such as application and mobile Web site development, database/CRM, location-based services, QR code efforts, SMS/MMS and mobile video.
“Generally speaking, it is smart for companies that can afford it to take as much mobile technology as possible in-house via acquisitions,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at unbound Commerce, Boston.
“By acting fast, they’re out ahead of the curve and block their competitors from using these tools,” he said.
Buying up mobile
Amazon has been acquiring mobile companies like Snaptell and Yap, PayPal bought Fig Card and VeriSign, and Walmart brought its app development in-house through its purchase of Small Society.
Left and right the industry has been seeing mergers and acquisitions. The daunting part is that a lot of this M&A activity is brought on by big brands that are truly investing in mobile long-term.
Is this good for the industry? Yes, because it means that companies finally understand that mobile will end up being one of the most disruptive technologies of the 21st century.
On the other hand, if there are fewer brands that need to turn to mobile marketing service providers like app developers, LBS providers and others, then these companies may be at risk.
“There is a big difference between technology or payment platform giants like eBay, Groupon, and Visa and a consumer-direct retailer like Walmart,” Mr. Kerr said. “Walmart stands out, because they have embraced a holistic, long-term strategic vision regarding the impact of mobile and social commerce.
“And they are investing heavily,” he said. “They acquired One Riot for ad targeting, Kosmix for social media search and, most-recently, Small Society, a mobile agency.
“They not only lock up the technology, but the hard-to-find, fresh-from-the-mobile-front-lines personnel. Walmart Labs has 60 employees and another 25 openings listed on their site. They claim to be defining the future of commerce and mobile clearly sits as the cornerstone of this roadmap.”
Retailers with mobile teams
In 2012 expect that more retailers will bring services like check-ins and deals in-house and incorporate them into their branded apps instead of working through third-party apps such as foursquare and Groupon.
The consolidation that is going on in the mobile industry points to the importance of mobile to retailers and the overall growth in retail apps. It is also evidence of the fact that retailers are looking for more control over their customers’ mobile experiences. They don’t want to have to share their data with third parties.
Expect to see further consolidation among app developers in 2012.
Online guys go mobile
Deloitte’s purchase of Ubermind last week points to an increased interest by old-school Internet companies to jump aboard the mobile train. Deloitte wanted to amplify the professional services it offers to brands.
Another example of a traditional Internet company investing in mobile includes WPP’s launch of Possible Mobile, a mobile commerce agency.
There have been 41 mobile-related acquisitions worth approximately $780 million in 2011 and 39 investments worth $314 million. Mobile marketing deal activity in 2011 increased 150 percent from 2010, according to Petsky Prunier’s summary of 2011 M&A and investment activity.
Service providers are also consolidation in the mobile space. Some of the noteworthy mobile acquisitions in 2011 included Motricity’s $93 million deal for mobile marketing provider Adenyo, Augme Technologies’ $45 million purchase of mobile marketing firm Hipcricket and Lenco Mobile’s $42 million acquisition of mobile marketing company iLoop Mobile.
“The recent acquisitions we’re seeing in the mobile space bear striking similarities to the Agency of Record (AOR) relationships that formed in the traditional advertising sector 50-plus years ago,” said Jessica Legg, product marketing manager at Digimarc, Beaverton, OR. “In the Mad Men era of agencies, we saw a model established where brands created retainer agreements with big ad firms—based on the two-for approach of tapping a resource with a broad range of capabilities at an all you can eat price.
“But those glory days are gone, as the media landscape has become more fragmented and complex, the Agency of Record is in decline—because no agency can do all things well,” she said. “Less CMOs are hiring traditional creative AOR’s, and instead are opting to work with a mixture of firms with highly specialized areas of expertise, including mobile service providers.”
Brands that still have traditional AOR’s are still funding big budget programs with other service providers—often because their main agency does not have the bandwidth, is not agile enough, or does not have expertise in that area, per Ms. Legg.
“There are some comparisons that can be drawn to what’s going on in the mobile arena,
” Ms. Legg said.
“No developer can be all things. Unless a brand has the capital and a justifiable amount of ongoing work in each area to acquire mobile firms across the spectrum of capabilities—there will always be a market where mobile companies with unique and compelling service offerings will thrive,” she said.
“It’s up to mobile service providers to find out what the thing is they do really well, and do it better than anyone else.”
So is all of this mobile M&A activity good or bad for service providers?
Brennan Hayden, vice president of WDA, East Lansing, MI, believes it is good news.
“These acquisitions are a welcome validation that competent mobile executions are critical to a healthy marketing program, and that expertise is in short supply,” Mr. Hayden said. “With these acquisitions, it is now in even shorter supply.
“Even for those vendors looking to do business with the companies mentioned, I would go so far to say that the volume of external expenditure on mobile services at these companies is about to increase dramatically,” he said.
Mr. Hayden believes that the volume of work still exceeds the resource available, and the acquisitions are being made primarily to provide leadership and core internal functionality that necessarily resides in-house.
Once these essential elements are in-place, the ability of these acquiring companies to out-source will increase, simply due to the speed at which they need to move, per Mr. Hayden.
“The bottom-line in that you can’t outsource what you can’t manage, and you can’t manage what you don’t understand,” Mr. Hayden said. “That has been the fundamental problem in mobile marketing budgets for years.
“These acquisitions mark a very encouraging turning-point in this regard,” he said. “Companies can no longer punt on the subject of mobile marketing.
“They have to get serious, they have to understand and invest in that understanding. These acquisitions are a sign of that investment, and I would suspect there are definitely more to come.”