Mobile Steers Multichannel Marketing

For immediacy, ubiquity, and convenience, nothing beats reaching prospects and customers on mobile devices. A smartphone is the surest way to reach someone at any hour of the day or night, no matter where he happens to be. It’s also a certain path to the future—through today’s youth. “If you’re trying to reach anyone 23 and younger, you’re looking at SMS, in-app, or social,” says Sheryl Kingstone, director, customer experience at Yankee Group.

The time has come to stop treating mobile marketing as a separate discipline and to start integrating it into the overall marketing mix. Early adopters gain an advantage by focusing dedicated resources on a new channel, but, ultimately, separate campaigns leave customers feeling disconnected from the overall brand message. “If you don’t have integrated goals from the beginning, you’ll end up with siloed campaigns—email will say one thing, SMS will say another, and when a customer responds in a different channel, you’ll be blind,” Kingstone says. “That cannot happen, but that’s what is happening today.”

Mobile’s unique advantages make it an ideal spearhead for multichannel campaigns. Mobile spending accounts for only 15% of digital advertising budgets, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau figures, so it hasn’t earned the leadership position on share-of-wallet. But the low costs, high penetration, and in many cases outsized open rates of the mobile channel are too significant to ignore, even in a marketing environment prone to turf wars.

“You have to get past the organizational issues that keep people from giving up Web real estate to promote the mobile channel because, ‘That’s my channel, and not yours,’” says Dan Smith, VP of product for brand-engagement platform Outsell. “All of these channels have a purpose, and that’s to orchestrate a dialog with the customer.”

And that’s why, at a growing number of companies, marketers have placed mobile firmly in the driver’s seat of their overall marketing mix.

Mobile’s immediacy advantage

The giant, splashy newspaper ad for a local car dealership feels as American as the open road itself. But it’s a channel that Patsy Lou Chevrolet of Flint Township, MI, has virtually abandoned in favor of marketing with a sense of immediacy. “Print ads are a rarity, and most of our TV spending is around news and sporting events, which are less likely to be taped,” says Jenna Lotter, the dealership’s business development manager. “We’re shifting our ad dollars [to] digital, because that’s where the consumer is doing research and spending the most time.”

In the year Lotter has been managing the dealership’s marketing efforts, her digital strategy has emphasized mobile devices, with Pandora streaming radio ads and mobile display advertising high on the list. A responsive design newsletter, powered by Outsell, provides personalized outreach in a mobile-friendly format.

On site at the dealership, Patsy Lou Chevrolet has embraced QR codes, which direct showroom shoppers to brand pages when they scan posters and tags. The dealership also experimented with QR codes for social recommendations. “You have to keep trying new methods to see what works in your market,” Lotter says.

The year-over-year results are significant: a 23% increase in mobile traffic to the Buick/GMC side of the dealership and a 116% increase in mobile traffic for Chevrolet. More than 30% of the dealership’s service department surveys are now completed on mobile devices.

Some brands are reluctant to use on-site QR codes; they fear that giving customers an excuse to consult their mobile device will only cause them to search for alternatives. Call it fear of RedLaser, and other third-party price aggregators, not to mention competitors’ sites. The cure for this fear is to provide enough compelling content to keep customers engaged with the message. “You can’t fight the ubiquity of mobile,” says Graeme Grant, COO of marketing technology provider CQuotient. “You have to provide a great experience for customers so that instead of RedLaser, they choose your site and your app.”

One of the best ways to turn around that fear is to embrace the power to instantly respond to customers’ needs, particularly to unsolicited feedback; “Customers are less inclined to walk to the front desk and complain—they’re going to share it with people they know,” says Michael Morton, VP of member services at hotelier Best Western International. “Someone is sitting at the pool, checks in on Facebook, and says, ‘They’re out of pool towels here. Bummer!’ Are we at the point where we can run out immediately and solve that? Not yet, but that’s where we want to go.”

Mobile forces streamlining

Mobile shoppers respond to simplicity and convenience. Building a streamlined experience was a top priority when beauty brand Lancôme revamped its mobile sales and marketing strategy in December 2012. Social login frees shoppers from remembering yet another username and password, and easily accessed store locators point shoppers to nearby retail partners. “A year-and-a-half ago our mobile component was an afterthought, a nice-to-have if we had the budget,” says Richard Manso, assistant VP, interactive and eBusiness at Lancôme. “Now, mobile outreach is a top planning point.”

Rather than stripping down the full desktop experience, Lancôme designs purpose-built mobile experiences on its Demandware platform, with content heavy on recommendations and testimonials from peers. Lancôme’s mobile ad buys direct shoppers to campaign-specific mobile sites with simple, clear calls to action. Previously, Lancôme tried to direct mobile users to the desktop version of its gift-with-purchase promotion program. “Now, every gift-with-purchase offer has a mobile experience,” Manso says. “We include only the items essential to call out on the small screen.”

Lancôme’s drive for simplicity extends to payment, as well. Its mobile shoppers select PayPal significantly more often than do desktop buyers, because they need not put down the phone and hunt for a credit card.

Buyers are responding favorably to the mobile experience. Fifteen percent of Lancôme’s 4Q 2013 digital sales were mobile, more than double the year-ago period. Average order value increased by 15%, as well. “Our mobile sites have exceeded our sales expectations. We’re seeing close to double what we thought we’d get,” Manso says.

Mobile’s core strengths

Along with its ability to drive sales, mobile is exceptionally good at facilitating one-to-one communication over both voice and text—a fact that’s sometimes overlooked in the rush to roll out custom apps and elaborate mobile advertising campaigns. “People often forget about text messages, which have delivery rates in excess of 99 percent, and 90 percent of those messages are read within 15 minutes,” Outsell’s Smith says. “If you have a customer relationship and an opt-in, that text is like a laser shot. You will get your message delivered and that message will be read.”

Because smartphones are so effective at enabling communications, they put customers in the mood to share. Lancôme finds its customers opting in to greater data sharing by asking more questions over mobile devices. “We used to focus on desktop name acquisition, but over the course of the past year, mobile has been essential,” Manso says. “Every experience, every product offering, and special offer has a name acquisition component behind it.”

Smartphones are also extremely effectual at pinpointing a consumer’s location. Digital advertisers have long been able to infer ZIP Code–level location, but mobile devices are getting even more precise as beacon-based systems known as geofences are deployed. Geofences let apps know when people have moved in or out of a precise, bounded area, such as a mall wing or stadium.

Despite worries that customers might push back against marketers sensing their location, data suggests that precise geofences have the opposite effect. According to Yankee Group’s Kingstone, uptake rates are actually three times higher as geofences get smaller, with the sweet spot at a 100-meter radius.

Mobile blurs social boundaries

Mobile devices have significantly blurred the lines between one-to-one and many-to-many conversations. “We were one of the first brands to understand that we’re now in a public environment and you have to engage with the customer so that others see that someone is personally responding,” says Best Western’s Morton. “And we’ve found that our customers engage with us at twice the average rate because of that.”

Best Western found that one of its most effective mobile marketing tools is the voice of the customer. The brand is collecting more than 350,000 mobile surveys annually, about 25% and rising of its total structured feedback. With the aid of customer experience platform Medallia’s technology, the hotelier offers customers the option to automatically convert their survey responses into TripAdvisor reviews. This feature has generated 15,000 additional monthly reviews on the travel-review site, and, more important, has actually increased Best Western’s overall scores by 4% while drowning out highly critical reviews.

“Folks doing this are sharing positive experiences much more than negative,” Morton says. “And because we send the surveys directly to guests, we know we’re getting more reviews from verified Best Western customers.”

In terms of getting mobile customers to participate in surveys, Medallia recommends asking customers to address just five important questions in mobile surveys, and then ask if they’re willing to continue answering more. “Mobile has forced [marketers] to prioritize and reduce their longer sets of questions, but you can close the loop via mobile very quickly,” says Medallia VP of marketing Michelle de Haaff. “You can find out if the wait in line is unacceptable and use that mobile device to reach out to the customer.”

Mobile needs all hands on deck

Mobile can only take its place at the multichannel table with organizational commitment, and that starts with marketing leadership. “Functional silos have been spun up by channel, application, and device, but we’re seeing organizations redesign to put a leader at the top of the omnichannel experience,” says Rob Garf, VP of industry strategy at commerce-platform developer Demandware.

A top priority for an omnichannel leader should be to shift priorities so that everyone in the organization is as knowledgeable and motivated as an aggressive shopper with a smartphone full of offers and inventory alerts. “As recently as two years ago retail store associates and managers weren’t incented at all to locate products that didn’t reside in the store,” Garf says. “Now, more retailers are making sure those sales affect the store’s P&L and spiff programs.”

Strategy will only solve part of the problem. The rapid-fire world of mobile marketing needs modern software to coordinate messages and consolidate results. “If your campaign management [tool] doesn’t have the ability to add mobile as an option for a multichannel campaign, it’s time to look for a new approach,” Kingstone says. “That’s a technology-oriented view, but without technology you won’t be able to understand and measure the return, and you’ll irritate your customers because you won’t be able to manage a two-way conversation.”

Above all, marketing leaders need to avoid making the mistake of watching the mobile marketing revolution speed by. “Mobile marketing was nonexistent three years ago and it has exponentially grown,” says Steve Warren, VP of digital messaging at Teradata. “You’re either going to play, or miss out.”

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