By invitation only

By Michele Turner

More people are turning to their smartphones in ways above and beyond their communication needs. In its Mobile Commerce Forecast 2011-2016 Report, Forrester Research recorded that mobile commerce will be worth $10bn by the end of this year, offering a proof point for the huge revenue potential for brands. However, despite the opportunities this presents, caution is needed. We conducted a study to delve deeper into consumer attitudes to mobile marketing and one thing’s for sure – for any brand, now is the time to integrate mobile into its marketing strategy. Yet, brands considering a mobile marketing strategy must get it right first time. Here we’ll explore how to do this, while highlighting any potential challenges that can arise.

Changing habits

Our research into the mobile usage habits of over 4,000 UK and US consumers found that people are increasingly glued to their phones: 90% of people aged between 18 and 24 are spending up to five hours a day on their mobile device. In general, people (and younger generations particularly) are spending more and more time consuming media and content on their mobiles, offering brands the opportunity to communicate with consumers on very personal terms. Few other channels offer marketers the chance to engage with an audience wherever they are, at any waking hour.

While there is clearly a need for this type of interaction, there is little understanding of the consumer appetite for mobile marketing. Analyst reports might depict mobile marketing as a burgeoning sector, yet it is relatively new for most people. Receiving promotional material via a mobile device – and the interactions with brands – is, in reality, still in its infancy for the majority of consumers. For example, only 43% of consumers have received mobile marketing messages. And with 62% of respondents being favourable to receiving these kinds of messages, it’s clear that many brands are missing out on a great opportunity for customer engagement and ultimately boosting sales.

However, before taking that first step towards mobile marketing, brands must remember one key point – a consumer’s first impression of mobile marketing is critical. By following the rules of engagement when it comes to mobile marketing, brand marketing messages can hit a large, receptive audience. Get it wrong, and brands will instantly lose customers.

Let the customer take control

However much desire there is for mobile marketing, there is a distinct resistance to full engagement by consumers. Further learnings from our research found that the ability to control what brands can find out about the individual, such as their location, concerns consumers. Almost three quarters of consumers (67%) strongly agree that they don’t want brands to know their whereabouts, but at the same time, 55% expect an offer to be timely and half of consumers think it’s important that promotional offers must be close to their current or planned location.

Other demands from consumers include making any marketing completely catered to their interests and current shopping habits. 61% of consumers polled only want deals relevant to them and 55% felt that promotions should come from a company or brand they have used before. But perhaps the most important stat to take note of is the control that consumers want over the marketing messages they receive: 61% of consumers said that it was ‘extremely important’ to be able to opt in and out of mobile promotional material.

It seems that finally consumers are reclaiming control over marketers and demanding that brands earn their trust before they’ll repay it. They want control and choice, and messages and promotions that are relevant, timely, and useful – when it comes to brand communications to their devices. Potential customers are prepared to ignore any interaction if they feel they have not first given permission to the brand to engage.

Pocket money

A well-considered mobile marketing strategy will ultimately only be considered successful if brands can see ROI for their engagement. The explosion of smartphone ownership sees consumers using their mobile phone for much more than calls – and mobile shopping represents huge opportunities for brands. As you might expect, the younger generation is blazing the trail in terms of m-commerce and our research found that one in five has purchased items on their mobile phone and an additional one in ten would consider using their mobile phone for shopping – making a total of a third who are, or would consider, using their mobile to shop. Yet there is work to be done on educating consumers when it comes to embracing m-commerce: 64% would still prefer to use their laptop, rather than their mobile phone, to make a purchase.

Converting consumers to loyal fans

From the marketer’s point of view, an effective m-commerce strategy puts a brand’s products and services in the palm of the consumer’s hand (or back pocket) at all times. It saves consumers’ time, and engages them via the most personal device they own. Consumers recognise the benefits of m-commerce, but will only make transactions if the service is useful, easy to use, and doesn’t require them to enter their credit/debit card details and personal information every time. Brands also need to ensure that they can erase consumers’ sometimes tainted and often misinformed perception of security around mobile shopping.

Mobile is a relatively new channel for the marketer, but one that presents massive opportunities for brands if they can provide a great customer experience. The numbers show a market driven by consumer enthusiasm for mobile devices, and an appetite for receiving marketing messages on their phone – so long as they are able to engage with brands on their own terms. If brands implement m-commerce well, it will convert a receptive audience into loyal fans.

Top tips to taking mobile to the next level

Make mobile a part of your strategy

The days of experimenting with apps and one-off SMS campaigns are over. Mobile as a marketing channel is established – integrate it into your overarching marketing strategy.

Get relevant – be personal

The mobile device is the most personalised object consumers use – and they use them all day long. Make sure your mobile marketing messages are personalised, make sure offers are relevant, and ensure your creative is entertaining and engaging.

Control and choice

Consumers demand that they can opt in and out of your messages at any time, and they don’t want to feel like their location is being tracked. Put them in control of the messages they receive on their device and they’ll be receptive to your messaging.

Get involved and get it right

Young adults are leading the way when it comes to engaging with mobile, and with mobile marketing and m-commerce. This could well represent a sea change in marketing – it’s essential to engage with these people now, because mobile will be even more firmly entrenched in future generation of consumers.

Facilitate and educate

Mobile is a relatively new commerce platform – and with it comes security and privacy concerns for consumers. Employ the best platforms and technology to ensure that your m-commerce solutions are secure and safe – and work to reassure and educate consumers on the benefits of safe mobile shopping.

About the author

Michele Turner is CMO of leading mobile consumer interaction specialist mBlox.

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