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The Path to Marketing Mobility

What do a virtual bank, a donut chain and a Canadian e-tailer have in common? According to keynote speakers at the “IBM Labs, CMOs + CIO and the Mobile World” event in Toronto, they face the same challenges when attempting to grab a slice of today’s burgeoning mobile commerce market.

According to IBM’s Q4 analysis, mobile sales increased 44 percent over 2011, with mobile traffic increasing close to 60 percent over the same period. Customers shopped from both their smartphones and iPads, with a 119 percent increase and 147 percent increase in mobile traffic respectively.

To cater to these tech-savvy consumers, financial institution ING Direct Canada, restaurant chain Tim Hortons, and 7-month-old etailer Shop.ca are blending commerce and mobile services. But while expanding mobile capabilities is critical, industry influencers agree that common challenges remain. 

Here are some of the key obstacles that companies, from donut shops to tire resellers, can expect to encounter on the path to mobility.

Reimagining the customer experience

Providing products and services via mobile channels is about more than simply offering your customers one more way to make purchases. Rather, Mike Riegel, vice president of mobile and WebSphere at IBM emphasized that “to be really successful in mobile, you have to rethink your approach; you have to reimagine the experience.”

Riegel pointed to TBC Corporation as an example. To boost customer satisfaction, the tire reseller began using IBM Worklight to allow customers to view recommended auto repairs, compare prices, and schedule maintenance work—all from a handheld tablet. The mobile strategy worked; TBC Corp.’s customer loyalty increased by 40 percent. But rolling out a mobile strategy also required the company to transform its marketing strategies, the design of its auto shops, its payment systems, and website to reflect this more mobile approach to customer service.

Overhauling old metrics

Mobile strategies demand a new set of metrics. Click-through rates may have worked great for yesterday’s ecommerce sites but these days, companies need to establish new ways to determine whether consumers are embracing mobile offerings. For example, event presenter and ING Direct Canada’s CIO Charaka Kithulegoda, shared that the financial institution still looks at “app downloads” and “transaction counts” to measure the impact that its mobile apps are having on customers. But even Kithulegoda admitted that the bank plans to broaden its metrics set to better “correlate mobile channel data” with return on investment figures.  

More data = more work

While data analytics can help companies gain greater insight into their customers’ buying behavior, it can also demand rapid-fire responses from unsuspecting chief marketing officers. Take, for example, Shop.ca. The Canadian etailer is currently using IBM’s analytics program CoreMetrics to determine what drives customers to the site, be it a marketing campaign or a Google search. But according to event presenter and Shop.ca Founder and President Trevor Newell, such real-time analytics reporting and marketing campaign analysis puts the onus on companies to act fast on the information they’re gathering, whether it’s restocking inventory or fixing technical glitches on the fly.

Reprioritizing strategies  

It’s not enough to simply repackage a carefully crafted web strategy for the mobile world. “The mistake a lot of [companies] make is they want to take their web capabilities and mobilize them and that doesn’t work,” IBM’s Riegel warned. “It never has and it never will. There are no success stories of companies that have taken their websites and mobilized them.” Instead, Riegel emphasized the need “to design for mobile first. You have to design for mobile at its core. You can’t take web content and two weeks later push it to mobile.”

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