Six ways to strengthen your mobile marketing in 2011

Mobile marketing is exploding, growing significantly as new services and applications allow marketers to engage consumers in more innovative and fun ways. But as the mobile landscape changes, it is increasingly important, and challenging, for direct marketers to stay ahead of the trends and be prepared to take advantage of the newest developments.

To assist marketers, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently released its 10 predictions for mobile marketing in 2011. Direct Marketing News spoke with Michael Becker, North America managing director for the MMA to discuss these trends and get his tips for how marketers should approach mobile in the coming year.

Don’t think of it as “location-based.” Becker emphasizes that while “location-based marketing” might be the buzzword of the moment, the more accurate description of marketing campaigns that use QR codes or services like Foursquare and Facebook Places is, “location-aware.” “Whether it’s a store offering you a discount at the check-out line, or Stella Artois has a service where you can find the local pub — these offers reflect an awareness of the place you are and are true to that context,” says Becker.

Know your market. While new apps and clever marketing tactics raise eyebrows, the first priority for marketers is to speak to their market in a language they will understand. “In the North American market, 25% of people have smartphones, which means 75% do not, so an augmented reality app doesn’t make a lot of sense if the people you are reaching out to don’t have the type of phone it takes to make it work,” says Becker. “Because of mobile, there is a potential for every marketer to be a direct marketer. We have to have an intimate understanding of our consumers, what kind of applications they use, what mobile behavior you’re targeting.”

Strengthen your partnership with the carrier. “Increasingly you will see carriers who will focus on creating their own branded storefronts and value-added areas to create additional revenue streams for them and marketers,” Becker predicts. Since carriers know their networks and handsets best, it will be increasingly worthwhile for marketers to work with them when possible to create relevant and effective opportunities for users.

Bring your app to the browser. While apps have taken off in the mobile space, the fact that they are device specific may limit their penetration in the market. “A good thing to consider is to add app-like functionality to the mobile browser,” says Becker. “You potentially have the benefits of applications, but with portability of the service across multiple devices, so you don’t have unique software for each platform, but can work overall on all HTML5 browsers.” He adds that there will continue to be value in standalone applications, particularly when a phone’s not connected to the network, but that marketers would be wise to head into 2011 thinking outside the app.

Prepare for the growth of mobile micro payments. Services that allow customers to pay for products and services by using their smartphones as electronic wallets are “increasingly getting bigger,” according to Becker. He recommends that marketers seek out ways to get their message out through these services, and points to mobile banking services as having particular opportunities for providing users with much-needed services in developing countries.

It’s about more than direct mobile sales. As smartphones take on more roles in people’s daily lives, marketers must remember that mobile devices are valuable beyond just the direct sales they generate. “The head of Steve Madden marketing was at the Adtech conference talking about how they had sold over half a million items directly through mobile,” says Becker. “But he added that they had sold an additional two and a half, to three million through traditional channels that were mobile influenced.”

Becker gives the example of an individual scanning a QR code that takes them to an online training video and eventually decides to buy the product, or who tweets with a customer service representative who eventually sells them a solution to their issue. “It’s all happening on that single device in my hand,” says Becker. “Digital and traditional practices are coming together with mobile and it’s acting as that connective tissue bringing them together.”

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