Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mobile Marketing and mCommerce: What Works and What’s Worse

We’re all familiar with the mCommerce statistics:
Businesses are spending billions of dollars on mCommerce solutions, branded apps and mobile marketing, not all of it well spent. It’s time to ask what works and what’s worse? We all know that mobile marketing has a role in branding, product launches, lead generation, developing customer relationships, social and affinity marketing, channel strategy and much more.
But what works? Is it mobile websites, gamification, branded apps, messaging, social media, video, mobile search, location-based content or are there newer emerging trends that marketers and eCommerce managers need to be aware of?
In this “social-mobile” era many businesses are worried that they don’t have what it takes to compete. Maurice Saatchi, of M&C Saatchi, yes that Saatchi, has some reassuring advice: “As brands increasingly come to embrace mobile, they need not be baffled or even intimidated by what lies ahead. Legitimate concerns such as tracking, return on investment and technical complexities can be assuaged by working with a partner who can take all of the worry away.
But the challenge isn’t simply technical. In a world of post-modern communications where the medium is the message, choosing the right mobile marketing approach is essential.
GEICO's Brostache App Quirkily Cool
The first debate that you will hear is the site vs. app debate. Those who advocate sites usually point to the efficiency of communicating across multi-channels. Those who advocate apps focus on the experience itself, immersion and loyalty.
Mobile marketing tactics such from search to gaming are always better when they are context aware. That means being location sensitive and purpose-driven. Why is my consumer or prospect interacting with their mobile device in this place at this time? Why this device (most of us have multiple choices)? Figure that out and you have a much better chance of choosing the right mobile marketing vehicle.
I really don’t see a single vehicle that is inherently better or worse. What works is innovation, creativity, and insight into the customer. What’s worse is imitation, inappropriateness and ignorance of customer expectations.
With that in mind some vehicles are better for certain mobile marketing situations. Going beyond the obvious b2b and b2c discussions, each product type and consumer type will be better or more poorly suited to particular mobile marketing tactics.
Mobile Sites. By now, every website should have a corresponding mobile site. If you don’t Google will punish you in search results and worse, you will lose out on the potential value from mobile search and mobile surfing. A well-designed mobile site that offers a high level of interaction, utility and useable on-the-go information can form the foundation of a good mobile marketing strategy. Your mobile website should be the home base of your mobile apps as well providing downloads, support and useful information.In addition, your mCommerce site will be home to a large volume of transactions from your customers.
Mobile Apps/Branded Apps. Mobile apps have proven to be the most effective overall vehicle used in mobile marketing and mCommerce. Mobile apps dazzle customers and prospects with rich interactive media content and the highest levels of interaction and intelligence. Your mCommerce apps can be integrated to back-end systems so that you are always making inventory-aware offerings for maximum profitability and consumer appeal. From browsing, to recommendation engines, to payment processing, an mCommerce app is a key part of your arsenal. And don’t forget, your app isn’t just a product sales vehicle it is a marketing machine. The marketing geniuses at GEICO didn’t invent the Brostache branded app for nothing.
Mobile Ads. Placement of mobile ads on popular sites is a good way to generate traffic for your mobile sites and apps. Remember that targeting is as essential to this form of advertising as any other. But if your objective is mobile commerce, you’re already half-way there because your ad reader is already using their mobile device. With the MMA and others collaborating to help standardize ad sizes and formats, the advertisers ability to approach mobile advertising like any other advertsing buy is improving.
Mobile Coupons. First-party mobile coupons seal the deal when a consumer is on-site and ready to purchase but are not as effective when the consumer has to find a way to keep track of your coupon on their mobile device. That’s why third party mobile coupon providers are more effective, because you can go back to their app to provide multiple coupons. A consumer may find a way to keep track of a first party coupon that will save them large amounts of money, but nobody wants to access multiple sites or apps in the grocery store to save a penny or two on canned soup.
Mobile Contests. Mobile contests encourage consumers to divulge their mobile number. Building a base of engaged mobile users can be powerful. All you have to do is pick a prize and ask your audience to text in with a mobile keyword to enter.  These contests are great for brands that can effectively leverage a text relationship with a consumer. So these will tend to be consumer-oriented or established relationships.
Mobile Gaming. Sometimes called advergaming, gamification of advertising and marketing messages allows a brand to reach consumers and potential customers in a fun, dynamic and engaging way. Depending on your objectives, games can be an effective way to build affinity, awareness and even loyalty. The best games have product placement without distracting from the fun or the challenge.
SMS Messaging. SMS marketing messages can take on many forms based on the context. SMS broadcasts, SMS polls, SMS contests, SMS Autoresponders, etc. Mobile messaging and location-based mobile messaging can be tricky business because you have to do a good job of anticipating the difference between desired communications and annoying SPAM.
MMS Messaging. With Multi-Media Message Service (MMS) you are able to create what may be considered more appealing, but potentially more intrusive, communications. The key is to keep it relevant, have permission and deliver value in the communication. The mobile users who are willing to consume MMS messages from marketers tend to be power users and not ordinary consumers. Target carefully based on user profiles.
Close Range Marketing. Bluetooth Wireless presents an opportunity for proximity based marketing. Due to the extremely short range of Bluetooth, this type of advertising is highly targeted. Bluetooth servers that sense the mobile device and size will be able to send messages in the right size and format.
 QR Codes. QR codes provide a convenient way to tie hard copy advertising to mobile marketing. The question is whether it is really worth trying to engage people in mobile marketing with other forms of expensive media. We’ve all heard of what works and what’s worse with QR codes. QR codes on subway signs where there is no cell service and in-flight magazines where phones aren’t allowed aren’t going to send your response rates skyrocketing. But in the right location and with an appealing utility to the ad, such as a reorder QR on a pizza box coupon, this can be an effective medium.
Voice Broadcasting. Let’s not forget that smartphones are phones. They can receive calls and store voice messages. Voice broadcasting to cell phones can be location based, incorporate IVR interaction and be linked to a call center.
What works and what’s worse? Effective mobile apps and mobile sites are key to any mCommerce and mobile marketing strategy. Use other methods judiciously based on your target user profile, the usage context and an alert eye to emerging trends.

 Glenn Johnson is a Senior Vice President at Magic Software Americas and frequent commentator on multimedia, mobile, eCommerce, social and enterprise systems.

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