Personalization: The Missing Link for Mobile Marketers

Mobile marketing‘s potential to increase sales and strengthen loyalty continues to grow year over year. Mobile will drive 16% of all e-commerce sales in 2013, versus a projected 36.1% in 2014, while sales via mobile look to increase from $139 billion in 2012 to more than $400 billion by 2015.

So, how will we get there? Certainly not via “spray and pray” tactics, as today’s consumers can access too much information to trust what happens to land on their doorstep. Instead, marketers must use data-focused segmentation and targeting to personalize customer experiences in 2014. Currently, only 13% of companies deliver a personalized mobile experience (versus 43% for desktop computers).

To create personalization that will help monetize mobile marketing, use the following four approaches.

Crawl-walk-run into cross-channel
Think about how you personally use your mobile device. You simultaneously use multiple channels like SMS, Web, app, social, and Passbook to most efficiently access and communicate information. Effective mobile marketers take the same approach: They integrate—rather than silo—individual channels to converse with one customer using multiple touchpoints (as opposed to many customers using the same touchpoint).

There are three steps toward getting to cross-channel: 1. crawl—place calls to action promoting one channel on other channels; 2. walk—create one central database of segmentation data customers share with your brand; and 3. run—use this centralized database to target messaging to customers, effectively creating a conversation across channels.

We can use the below SMS promotion from Electronic Arts (EA) to illustrate this process. In the first SMS message EA promotes another channel—a mobile app. When customers download that app, they opt-in to share their app usage. From there, if app page views fall from one month to the next, EA can refine its app experience and trigger an SMS or push notification letting customers know about the new features—especially if they clicked a link and viewed the Battlefield 4 preview (from the second SMS message).

Companies just starting a cross-channel strategy should focus on small wins. Learning to “run” takes time and iteration, so commit to setting attainable goals instead of launching everything simultaneously.

Use opt-ins to identify subscribers
When customers opt in to marketing campaigns, they become subscribers: the ideal assets for personalization. Be bold when encouraging customer opt-ins and request that they consent to sharing their contact information, such as phone number and email address, or segmentation criteria, including ZIP Code and product feedback. Here’s one example from Pizza Hut:


Once you have subscribers, personalize their experience using custom features such as configurable navigation and targeted product recommendations. When consumers see demonstrable value in subscription programs, they’ll not only continue using mobile products, but also will share their benefits with others. When driving opt-ins, remember you’re operating as if you were in a real-life relationship. Be casual up front, but eventually you should “have the talk” and actively push customers to further engage with your brand.

Even without an opt-in, brands still have the ability to implement choice-focused tactics using A/B testing. Applicable to anything mobile—whether landing pages for inbound traffic, mobile message blasts, or individual app pages—the process is straightforward: Track success metrics for two alternatives, choose the best, compare that with a third alternative, then a fourth, and so on. No, A/B testing can’t personalize content at the individual level, but it does enable marketers to make mobile media more engaging for customers

By definition alone, this tactic is simple: mobile devices go everywhere with customers, so take advantage and harness this information to personalize experiences.

For example, Starbucks uses a mobile Web store locator that asks customers to reveal their location, then populates a map with nearby stores. Due to the nature of the information requested, consumers likely will find this data pop-up innocuous.

On SMS, marketers can request that customers share their ZIP Code, whereas app and Passbook marketers can use location triggers for push messages. Remember, as long as customers see value in the call to action, requesting location information won’t come off as intrusive.

For those struggling with how to use location, start with four straightforward applications: time, weather, calendar, and geography. Tactics like “Last minute sale before 5 p.m.,” “Beat the cold weather with this offer,” or “Special summer deal” messages segmented by time zone will establish a stronger consumer/brand connection.

Preference Management
Choosing between options enables customers to personalize through customization. Take this menu from ESPN’s app:

Here, an ESPN customer selects his desired alerts according to subject matter, ending any risk that customers will be turned off by intrusive updates. Ask customers how often they’d like to receive updates, and then confirm what changes (if any) they prefer following a busy season.

All this information works as an ideal window into how the customer will prefer communication from other channels. One simple rule of thumb: Traditional marketers view mobile technology as a communication channel, while savvy marketers understand that mobile produces much more value as a data channel.

Kane Russell is VP of marketing at Waterfall Mobile

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