Dialing in customers

Harness the power of interactive marketing through the mobile channel.

Imagine a customer touchpoint with the power to reach more than 3 billion consumers worldwide—one that follows them everywhere, garners almost immediate attention, provides an opportunity for personalized dialogue, and facilitates real-time delivery of products, services and marketing communications.

Marketing utopia? Possibly, but this actually exists. The touchpoint is the mobile phone, and its potential and early successes are generating substantial interest among marketers across industries.

Unlimited potential

The mobile channel is still in its infancy, and we’re seeing new applications every day. Consumers can receive mobile alerts on breaking news, special sales events, traffic updates or flight delays. They can find specialty store locations by texting a postal code. They can get event tickets, airline boarding passes and in-store coupons delivered to their phones. They can watch videos or live sporting events on the go. And in some countries, they can use their phones like a debit card—at a parking meter, vending machine or store.

The potential benefits are many and varied. Consider the ownership figures for mobile phones. In 2008, mobile entertainment firm Limbo estimated 3.3 billion mobile users worldwide, with almost 300 million in the U.S. In one Limbo survey, 53% of U.S. customers said they text at least once a month. In the United Kingdom, it was 93%.

Reach is not the only benefit. If done right, mobile communication presents a singular opportunity to cut through the clutter and deliver relevant messages and content to customers wherever they are. This is particularly important as consumers become inundated with marketing messages, many of which are tuned out. Unsolicited e-mail and snail mail are discarded unread, TV commercials fast-forwarded, and Internet banner ads ignored.

Getting your message across requires you to make communications anticipated, personal and relevant. The mobile channel is tailor-made for this. When leveraged effectively, this medium:

  • Drives revenue. The mobile channel can promote sales through coupons and gift cards as well as offerings that customers are willing to pay for, such as games, ringtones and sports broadcasts.
  • Promotes loyalty. Engaging in personalized dialogue with consumers, demonstrating understanding of communication preferences, and providing relevant and timely content make for a positive customer experience, facilitating trust and loyalty.
  • Targets key demographics. Mobile marketing appeals to two extremely desirable but hard-to-reach demographics—Generation Y and Generation X. While members of Generation Y are not likely to read direct mail or a newspaper, they often respond to mobile offers and notice mobile ads, because this technology is integrated into the fabric of their lives. Members of Generation X are increasingly turning to mobile as their communication channel of choice. Companies cannot afford to ignore such preferences.
  • Provides immediacy and feedback. This channel enables organizations to reach customers in real time with content that is highly personalized both to the individual and the circumstances. Marketers can track responses to determine which advertisements are meeting expectations.
  • Complements traditional media and service channels. Companies should implement mobile initiatives in conjunction with other, more traditional media—for instance, publicizing their mobile offerings through the Internet and billboard advertising.

Data and analytics infrastructure

At the foundation of any successful mobile marketing initiative should be the data warehouse and customer relationship management (CRM) environments. (See figure.)


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At a minimum, organizations that implement mobile marketing must develop a list of customers opting in, accurately measure campaign success, adapt content to ensure it is relevant to the individual and detect when the time is right to respond with an appropriate message.

All of this is made possible through access to data that is integrated, cleansed, centralized, clearly defined and consistently refreshed—information housed in a data warehouse or CRM application. Integrating mobile initiatives into these applications only makes sense.

Using the powerful analytics capability found in the business intelligence (BI) environment enables organizations to identify and target those consumers most likely to opt in to mobile campaigns, develop content and messages that resonate with various customer segments, and determine which mobile activity leads to more purchases, additional revenue, decreased costs and improved satisfaction. Integrating this channel into the operational and customer service aspects of an organization enhances the value delivered—from data warehouse analytics as well as the mobile offerings themselves.

Getting your message across requires you to make communications anticipated, personal and relevant. The mobile channel is tailor-made for this.

The data warehouse and CRM already play key roles in other established marketing communications. They are critical to the success of event-based and interactive marketing, where the goal is to understand when customer behavior deviates from the norm and respond with a tailored offer. They are a key part of an integrated customer communication optimization strategy that spans marketing, service, regulatory and other communications across all channels. The data warehouse, in particular, is the optimal mechanism for pinpointing relevance and cutting through the “clutter factors.”

Companies should take this integration further than simply feeding information from the data warehouse to mobile campaigns and vice versa. They should aim to integrate mobile technology applications provided by vendors as tightly into the data warehouse and CRM applications as they have with marketing automation, contact optimization, and event-based and interactive marketing applications. Such integration will prove essential when the mobile channel becomes incorporated in day-to-day customer communications because it will provide a seamless environment from which to do analysis, event detection, offer generation and results measurement.

The technology environment

Complexity reigns in the mobile technology environment, requiring marketers to navigate technical and regulatory issues. A few of the challenges that must be addressed are:

  • Handsets. There are myriad wireless carriers and hundreds of mobile handsets, all with different specifications, screen sizes and embedded features. The vast number of handsets directly affects development of both applications and Web sites. Each message, application, Web site and video must be created to fit all handsets.
  • Rules and regulations. Imposed by the mobile carriers, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the Common Short Code Administration, the set of rules to protect customers is different for each carrier. For example, marketers are required to end communications to any customer who texts the word ”stop” or ”quit.” The MMA has established consistent guidelines for all, but carriers also have their own specific rules. Additionally, securing a common short code for a mobile campaign requires a series of submissions and approvals. Companies must provide specifics to every wireless carrier included in the campaign. Not only must carriers approve them, but the campaigns and their associated applications must also undergo a test phase to ensure that they work appropriately. Garnering approvals can take up to eight weeks, longer if issues arise with the submission or testing.
  • Message delivery. Messages, applications and videos are delivered over a network to and from customers. Timeliness and reliability are critical to success. Campaigns rely on both the initial text requesting a store location and the response being delivered without delay.

To help companies wade through the complexities of the mobile environment, several types of vendors have emerged. These service providers generally sit between the companies conducting the mobile campaigns and the users who receive the messages. They build platforms and networks for delivering messages, keep databases with handset requirements, develop applications and mobile Web sites for the different handset models, work with carriers to gain approvals, and track and analyze campaign results.


Opportunity rings

The mobile channel is emerging as a dramatic, holistic and powerful method of interacting with customers. It can reach consumers other media cannot, promote ongoing dialogue, provide feedback about marketing effectiveness, facilitate finely targeted advertising and, most importantly, drive revenue and promote customer loyalty. While many organizations are experimenting with individual stand-alone campaigns, few have completely integrated mobile into their overall customer communications strategies or their data warehouses and BI environments.

The turning point, however, is near. CRM thought leaders striving for profitable customer relationships see the value of using mobile not only to market but also to communicate. They will expand upon this idea until mobile is woven into the fabric of the organization. The mobile channel will be used as a delivery method for products and services, to feed information to the data warehouse and to receive knowledge generated through BI. It will become a communication tool unlike any before, enabling customers to deliver and receive information at the moment of need.

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