Chapter 4 - Customer Engagement in a World Gone Mobile

As the way in which people use mobile is significantly different to the way they use other channels, the marketing methods must also change. In terms of use, mobile is not merely a portable version of the internet, but a medium unto itself, which must be considered as such. "Mobile is not incremental, it is transformational."

Which is to say, it has the potential to be transformational - but that transformation is not yet realized. It is being used as a location finder and a coupon dispenser, but it can be much more than that.

Mobile Business Goal Alignment

Marketing strategy for the mobile channel must align the goals of the business to the opportunities of the channel, but the opportunism lie in the way that consumers use the channel rather than the capabilities that are available but unissued, and certainly rather than the way in which the business wishes that consumers would use the channel.

First, recognize that different demographic groups use different mobile devices - so first determine what your customers use (it may not be what is most popular among all users). You can survey them, but a better approach might be to launch a simple "first generation" mobile website and monitor device statistics. This will give you an initial impression that can be refined later when you can sort out your best customers from the overall audience.

Second, beware of your internal agenda. Companies often act on instinct, considering what they want from their customers - but unless they deliver what their customers want of them, their efforts are in vain. Further, your efforts are counterproductive: visitors who find a site useless very seldom return to see if it has become useful since their last visit.

The author predicts that, given time, the majority of the market will migrate to smartphones - they're so much more useful - and while you should plan for that future, you will need to build for the present.

Follow Your Customers

Mobile phone use is evolving, as customers switch devices and learn the various features that they offer, and the features themselves continue to evolve. There are many firms that are attempting to push the edge of the envelope.

The author's advice: don't be among them. The risk of missing out on marketing opportunities by being on the leading edge is far outweighed by the risk of alienating customers by being too far ahead of them. The reason many start-ups fail is in being too nimble and assuming the customer will hurry to catch up to them.

Instead, find out what your customers are actually using, and build to suit. If you provide genuine value, they will continue to use your "outdated" applications until you replace them with newer versions - and provided the newer versions are compatible with their current devices and habits, they will be delighted when you get around to upgrading.

Mobile Engagement

The author dusts off the AIDA model of marketing (attention, interest, desire, and action) but instead of pooh-poohing it as being old fashioned, he suggests that marketers need to return to this model and be careful of what people take for granted. Technology may have changed, but behavioral psychology is still the same.

He also mentions those who have slapped an "S" onto the acronym to underscore the need to be attentive to whether customers are really satisfied after the sale. In the case of mobile, satisfaction in the experience in using your mobile offering is nearly as important as satisfaction with the product itself.

At the same time, be aware that mobile may interfere with the ADIAS process in other channels. The customer is already aware of your solution, so he is no longer depending on a salesman to guide him. The information he receives from other sources is often more credible and motivational than anything you have to tell him. The service he has received from others sets his expectations of how he will do business with you, and lowered his tolerance for inefficient and imperious treatment.

So not only do you have to consider how to interact with the customer in this new channel, but you also must consider how the channel will impact the way you deal with him in others.

Case Study: Pepsi

Pepsi considered mobile to be "hugely important" and considered it as part of the portfolio of experiences it offers customers in digital media. Admittedly, customers do not purchase soda pop through digital channels, but it is considered to be an important part of the brand experience to keep customers engaged with their digital brands.

One application was the location-based service that would direct mobile users to the nearest place (stores and restaurants) to purchase a Pepsi product, and this was coupled with a program that enabled customers to earn points to purchase merchandise and music downloads by checking into participating locations. Another application enabled participants to retrieve messages by scanning barcodes that were placed on advertisements, product packaging, and retail signage. They also revived the old bottle-cap promotional campaigns by providing codes that players could check via text messaging to see if they had won. (EN: No indication if these were successful, just an ain't-this-cool description.)

Pepsi fishes for mobile platform ideas by taking suggestions from customers, via mobile of course. They are also aggressive in soliciting ideas from start-up companies, granting technology grants and entering into partnerships with small and nimble firms (which is dicey but cheap, considering $250K buys a lot from a small firm). Many if the ideas are faddish and turn out to be of little use, but innovating requires a willingness to invest in chasing butterflies.

Provide Value and a Call to Action

One significant shortcoming for many mobile experiments is that they fail to provide value to the customer. In some instances, the firm that produces a mobile site is simply enamored of the new channel and fails to consider what its mobile offerings will achieve. In others, the firm knows what it wants, but doesn't consider that mobile users will only participate if they are offered something of value to themselves.

Particularly in the mobile channel, users are interested in an outcome: they expect a mobile site to do something for them. They do not browse mobile in the same way they browse the Internet. While they may be momentarily drawn to something interesting, amusing, or cool they will not become regular visitors unless they get value for the time they invest, every time they visit. There are many applications that are downloaded, used once, and then deleted.

Consider the call-to-action - a button or link that enables the user to accomplish something: to share, to buy, to request information, etc. If your site offers no call to action, then it is likely useless.

Test, Learn, Evolve

Mobile is very much an evolving medium, and as such it is a moving target. Given this, the author recommends the "test and learn" approach: try out new things with a small part of the market, then observe and gather feedback. If you experiment is a success, scale it up slowly.

Because mobile is personal, it lends itself well to test marketing with small groups of people. The author goes a bit further to provide a few examples in which mobile served as a test platform for messaging that would later be used in print, direct mail, and even mass-media advertising.

A few more examples show how the mobile device itself can be a testing platform - to allow participants who have opted into research can be polled based on time and location to give feedback on an in-store experience or viewing a movie or television program.

Back to mobile itself, the concept of "beta testing" is now well enough established that a firm can recruit a select group who will allow their use of an application in development to be closely tracked and who will provide feedback for improvement. The same can be done for new features that are added later.

The author provides an unusual example of a firm that developed an application for marketing purposes, and it was discovered during beta testing that people expected to have to pay for the full version and were eager to do so. As a result, the company was able to release a free version to a broad audience and generate revenue from sales of a more feature-rich commercial version. (EN: how much revenue, and how long they kept users engaged, is not disclosed. It seems like one of those things that is entirely possible but highly improbable for most brands.)

Shiny Objects

Since mobile is a new technology, it can be difficult to distinguish the ideas that have long-term potential from those that have short-term novelty value. Too many firms are distracted by shiny objects that seem very appealing at a glance, but offer no sustainable value - and as a result they waste a great deal of time and money chasing one fad after another.

There are market segments who will respond positively to shiny objects - customers who leap on the latest technical widget, use it obsessively for a short amount of time, then toss it aside as they move on to the next shiny object. In theory, a company could garner a lot of attention by changing with the wiles of fashion.

In practice, it is very difficult and very expensive for a firm to support everything that comes along. No-one knows what the next fad will be and by the time it's mentioned in the mainstream press it is already on its way out. Meanwhile it takes time to understand a new technology, develop an application for it, and integrate it into business practices.