4 Reasons You Can't Skimp on Your Mobile Customer Experience

Mitchell Osak

You would have to be living on the moon not to notice the huge popularity of smartphones. Their ubiquity presents marketers with a rich channel or vehicle to build revenue, improve program efficiencies and enhance the brand. Yet at the same time, this opportunity comes with its share of brand and investment risks. To maximize ROI, marketers need to understand why mobile marketing is fundamentally different from traditional media and PC-based digital marketing and how best to engage consumers.

Strategy Analytics, a U.S. research firm, reports that the number of global smartphone users surpassed the 1B mark (1 in 7 people globally) during the third quarter of 2012. In Canada, there are now over 10.5M smartphone users representing about 30% of the population. Growth in both geographies shows little sign of abating in the short term.

This penetration has not gone unnoticed by companies. It is triggering a significant shift in budget spend towards new mobile marketing programs. Companies dipping their toe into this medium regularly ask us to provide some key success factors to best leverage this new channel. Below are 4 essentials that must be considered for any mobile marketing initiative:

1. Mobile enables new brand experiences that go way beyond traditional advertising. Unlike passive advertising and promotion, mobile marketing allows brands to engage consumers in unique, personalized, ‘always on’ and location-based relationships. Mobile advertising is largely new to consumers often delivering new forms of engagement that other media cannot offer, such as coupons that they can instantaneously redeem in stores or a Nike app that can help them with their workouts.

Pina Sciarra, former head of marketing for Coke Canada and ConAgra Foods, is one marketing leader driving the significant shift from traditional media spend to other mediums like mobile marketing. "Mobile devices are the future, with a profound impact on education, consumerism, lifestyle management and program ROI. This medium has and will continue to change the way brands reach their consumers or more importantly how they reach us."

2. "Appvertising" is driving engagement. Apps are the sine non qua of mobile marketing. Consumers can easily download the app for their favorite brands and interact with them to make purchases, discover new information, and share with their friends. Though estimates vary, over 500K apps have been published with more than 15B downloaded. Apps are a form of advertising that many people actually welcome onto their phones, whether by downloading free applets or in many cases even paying for them. Companies are using Apps in many ways, such as providing new services, tools or games to extend their brand; creating a mobile site so their customers have easier access to their offering or; serving up mobile banner ads to reach their target ‘on the go.’

3. Mobile is essential for modern living.Canadians are using smartphones daily in every aspect of their lives. According to a 2012 Ipsos Reid study, Canadians rely on their smartphones for a variety of functions such as taking photos (70%), sending or reading email (70%), checking social networking sites (48%), and online gaming (11%). Canadian smartphone owners spend on average 2.5 hours per day on their mobile device. The majority (81%) of users feel they do not take advantage of the full functionality of their smartphones.

Some social networking sites are actually being designed around mobile devices, such a Foursquare, which utilizes the GPS location technology on smartphones. The phrase "there’s an app for that" rings true as smartphone functionality continues to increase, further driving market penetration.

4. QR bar codes drive integration.Ubiquitous QR bar codes are now found in most traditional advertising vehicles like magazines, outdoor ads and newspapers. Scanning QR bar codes with a smartphone reader enables consumers to more deeply explore a brand or promotion via micro sites, video, and audio tools. Leveraging these codes also drive stronger cross-program integration thereby increasing overall marketing effectiveness and efficiency.

Like it or not, every company and brand is being impacted by mobile marketing and the consumer dialogue it enables. The corporate challenge is to figure out the best way to leverage this new medium while ensuring it integrates with the rest of the marketing mix. One prudent approach is to align your mobile programs against your brand strategy and value proposition, and begin modestly with a pilot project. Start with an app and mobile site, talk to your customers, learn from the experience, and expand from there.

Mitchell Osak is managing director of Quanta Consulting Inc. Quanta has delivered a variety of winning strategy and organizational transformation consulting and educational solutions to global Fortune 1000 organizations. Mitchell can be reached at mosak@quantaconsulting.com