Facebook recently began experimenting with advertising in its Messenger app, which has been received with a lukewarm response. Installations of adblockers for mobile phones has risen steadily.
According to Percolate’s survey of executives from 300 major enterprises, most marketing organizations allocate 48 percent of their budget to ads. Although it is important to keep brands top-of-mind (especially in situations where buyers are searching for key terms), it doesn’t make sense to alienate them by doing so in a way they find objectionable, especially in a market as rich as mobile consumers (which accounted for 33 percent of last year’s Black Friday sales, adding up to over a billion dollars in revenue). Consumers and professionals’ lives revolve around their smartphones, and that is where businesses should be focusing their marketing efforts.
Instead of generic ads, companies should invest in mobile content that consumers actually welcome. Website analysis company Buzzsumo recently published an analysis of the characteristics that cause content to go viral. Amongst the top features were interactivity (such as quizzes) and usefulness (tips and how-to’s). People are drawn to content they can engage with and/or use in the future--and marketers should take note.
Unlike billboards or even banner ads, consumers seem to feel that their smartphones are their personal space--an extension of themselves--and advertisements on mobile feel more invasive than they do elsewhere. If marketers want to reach mobile buyers effectively, they need to find ways to make promotions feel more welcome. Traditional ads might not be the way to achieve that, but services and campaigns that actively make users’ lives easier in the moment meet a far more receptive audience. More personalized experiences and promotions mean more engagement and more opportunity to get messages across.
How to Make Mobile Marketing Into a Customer Service
Think bigger than straight-forward promotions: The easiest way to absolutely ensure that a message or feature is welcomed is to remove self-serving elements entirely; marketing materials that don’t directly promote a product can still lead to increased sales. Free tools or simple services that draw users to an app or website get buyers’ attention and keep brands top-of-mind. Helpful reminders, free calculators and other types of services that offer utility are a clear way to win customer appreciation and loyalty in increments. Anticipating customer needs and helping them manage tricky situations is a straightforward path to winning their appreciation. For a real-world example, imagine a TSA application that recognizes when travelers are late for their flights and offers them the option to purchase an upgrade. That type of functionality is accessible through the technology we have today and clearly demonstrates how a promotion can also act as a gift.
The end-goal of mobile marketing might not always be direct sales; some brands use apps to promote a type of lifestyle, rather than simply a set of products. Building features that help foster that brand’s lifestyle makes users’ lives easier and helps companies tap into a broader narrative that brings them closer to their customers at a more intimate level.
Make buying an immersive experience: That said, not all businesses have the luxury of expending resources on marketing campaigns without a clear ROI. Materials that are promotional can also be transformed into “services” with the right implementation. Saks Fifth Avenue paired with an application called StyleCaster, which enables shoppers to upload a picture of themselves and create an avatar so that they can “try on clothes” even while shopping digitally. This functionality is useful, removing one of the biggest challenges of online shopping, and also adds an element of fun. The novelty of being able to dress oneself up like a paper doll is likely something that would appeal to Saks’ target audience, making it a worthwhile investment on the part of the company.
Marketers who create these types of campaigns have to be selective--creating new software can drain funding and resources quickly--but a strategically implemented campaign can end up paying dividends if it works well. It can also deliver long-time loyalty in a way that a pop-up ad never could; the same customer who clicks an ad once and then moves on might revisit the tool repeatedly, eventually becoming a loyal customer.
Use relevance to change an advertisement into an advantage: For decades advertising campaigns have been conceptualized, executed and implemented by companies in a linear pattern, yet that doesn’t have to be the case on mobile. Like targeted banner ads, mobile promotions can take their cues from user behavior but have the added benefit of being able to actively collect new information and act on it. Companies can create mobile experiences that are timely and personalized for each individual user.
Today, mobile marketers can factor elements like location, weather and current events into their promotions, so that if a shopper walks into a store, an app can generate a coupon automatically and if a customer misses his or her appointment, it can recognize that and offer alternative options. This process combines systems of intelligence with systems of interaction so that brands can get a real-time view of customers in the moment.
This year on black Friday, Walmart ran a series of promotions that were only accessible through its mobile application, prompting thousands of Americans to download the app. Seventy percent of the day’s sales ultimately came through mobile.
Be a resource: In both consumer and enterprise business, convenience and accessibility of information play a major role in driving successful sales. Recent Forrester research found that 75 percent of buyers prefer to reference a website than to interact with a salesperson, which means that marketing content is more important than ever. Mobile websites and applications should be comprehensive and easy to navigate and should information should be presented when and where it is most relevant.
For apps, this might mean considering investing in video tutorials and other multimedia resources, which tend to get information across more quickly and powerfully than text. It could also mean using in-app messaging and chatbots to ensure customer questions get answered immediately.
Advertisements have their place, but companies who want to reach buyers on mobile have to look further. Promotions and services that add real value will be the way to access mobile customers in the coming years. The future of mobile marketing will be based on utility.
About the Author
Christopher Dean is CEO of Swrve. Previously holding senior roles in Urban Airship and Skype, Christopher has a proven track record when it comes to making it happen in mobile marketing automation.