A common prediction among 2014 mobile marketing forecasters is that SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) marketing will materialize in a big way. Much has to do with big data solutions and the mobile device boom. But should this bullish forecast rely on device and data enabling or on a growing base of consumers expecting better experiences?
Evidence is mounting that consumers expect more than SoLoMo technology is able to deliver. In this first part of four series on Mobile Marketing Trends, we examine the growing demands in customer experience as well as the lack of marketing initiative that seems to be holding it up.
Gap in Mobile Customer Experience
As the number of smartphones now exceeds 1 billion, it is not surprising that mobile is rapidly overtaking desktop access to the internet. One obvious consequence of this trend is the growing number of online marketers embracing a “mobile first” design philosophy. But more research is suggesting these intentions are not materializing into a distinct mobile customer experience. Instead, efforts are often limited to screen optimizing and mobile friendly interfacing.
What’s evident in many mobile websites is a marketing myopia that fails to appreciate the mobile user’s end-to-end journey. Consider the role of research, for example, in a mobile setting. The demand to instantly research products, competitive pricing, ratings and reviews has far greater relevance to mobile users especially when they are in close proximity to a marketer’s place of business. And with 50% of mobile web searches now being used for local businesses, these demands for real-time research build a strong case for a mobile-first web design philosophy.
The good news to marketers is that efforts to convert on online marketing initiatives becomes more promising. The buying stage of a mobile users tends to be closer to the bottom-of-the-funnel (e.g., shopping checkouts). And with mobile message responses averaging around 15 minutes as compared to 48 hours for a desktop delivered email, marketers should have more opportunity to stay engaged throughout the buying cycle. This should translate into more personalized messaging, relevant mobile apps and responsive mobile websites. But we are not seeing this.
“…Marketing is failing to prioritize the mobile customer experience…”
- Amy Bishop, Digital Marketing & PR at Digital Relevance
A Vibes study, for example, found that 89% of consumers want personalization, but only 18% see it frequently from retailers. And the mainstream adoption of local context has yet to materialize, leaving a gap between what consumers have now come to expect and what mobile marketers are actually providing. The criticality of this gap in mobile attention becomes an even greater concern as trends support a predominantly mobile world in years to come.
Mobile Users Want Less and Expect More
So what is keeping marketers from addressing these mobile experience demands? Experts attribute most of the sluggish response to the following:
- A desktop first, ‘mobile second’ design philosophy
- A failure of marketers to adequately understand and map a mobile customer’s end-to-end journey
- Continuing technology maturing across mobile payment apps, geo-fencing and in-store shopping infrastructures
What should be an alert to all mobile marketers is the damage done when consumers have a bad mobile experience. According to Compuware and IAB, an estimated 40% to 61%, respectively, will visit a competitor’s site when this happens.
At the same time, consumers are clamoring for less functionality to accommodate their smaller screens and reduced attention span when on mobile devices. This often goes beyond the obvious reduction in links and text required for a mobile display. The more simple and direct end-to-end journey of a mobile user typically translates to far fewer navigation steps as well.
Overall, the unique experience expectations of a mobile user can be defined in an acronym that spells C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R.
Convenience of Payments, Calls and Directions
Consumers expecting quick-and-easy mobile experiences. This includes having instant access to product and service research, locations triggers and the ability to make mobile payments in hassle-free steps.
“We like mobile devices because they make our lives more convenient.”
Chris Horton, Content Creator and Digital Strategist at SyneCore Technologies
Mobile consumers expect far more in real-time research and context relevance in comparison to their desktop counterparts. And with a growing number of apps primarily aimed at simplifying the mobile experience, these expectations will become greater. Steps like linking local addresses into contact listings, or automatically mapping directions, will become commonplace as mobile users experience this elsewhere.
Mobile payment, in particular, is one area where users have been enamored with the convenience of merging coupons, loyalty cards and credit cards into one NFC swipe. And while Apple and Google work out the differences in their proposed payment technologies (e.g., Bluetooth LE/iBeacons vs. NFC), mobile marketers need to gear up for some type of iWallet. At stake are the many pull-through loyalty perquisites and behavioral tracking that comes with mobile wallets.
Utility for Real-Time Self-Help
In his book, Youtility, Jay Baer builds a strong case for utility as the future of marketing. Utility marketing is defined here as “putting content and information in your marketing material that your target audience can utilize.” One way to accomplish this is through mobile apps.
By using apps to help consumers with useful problem solving in real-time, mobile marketers stand to gain far more in brand loyalty. Imagine, for example, an app offered by a grocery chain that offers free advice on dieting habits or by a bleach manufacturer helping you decide the best way to remove a wine stain. The key to applying this “friend of mine” marketing approach is having brand credibility in the area of advice offered to the mobile user.
Showrooming for Better Deals
Perhaps the most demanded mobile user experience relates to showrooming or the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store often with the intent to purchase the merchandise elsewhere. Mobile users can now get ample research in-store on competing prices as well as on ratings and review. It is at this point that retailers in particular should consider personalized offers as a way to thwart away any temptation to buy elsewhere.
According to a recent Vibes Study, the number of consumers who purchased a product from a competitor while in a retail store has increased 156% since 2012. The study further demonstrated that:
- 47% move onto complete a transaction
- 45% go elsewhere to purchase items
- 7% do not make purchases.
But these timely offers apply to more than just showroomers. Mobile users “on the go” are far more prone to look elsewhere in dealing with any online task at hand. And with the average adult will now spending over 5 hours per day in mobile activities, expect an “instant response” mentality to become increasingly important.
“…When conceptualizing mobile marketing strategies, it’s essential that you understand timing is key to converting mobile leads to buyers…”
- Martin Jones, Editor of CoxBLUE.com
The same applies to timely alerts outside of, but in proximity to, store shopping. Mobile users in close proximity to a marketer’s place of business often don’t benefit from local offers out of their reach. So timing becomes everything especially in light of the high number of users in shopping mode. And when done proactively, as in the case of reminding customers of upcoming events or appointments, mobile users will often credit the mobile marketer with a convenience benefit as well.
Special Offers & Rewards for Mobile Efforts
Much like the case of rewarding social media fans for the privilege of accessing their news feeds or inbox, mobile users expect something for their efforts. After all, marketers are asking for time spend downloading apps.
They are also asking to interrupt a mobile user’s journey with SMS messaging and other alerts often when the mobile user is in the midst of pressing business. So special compensation is should be expected in the form of exclusive mobile rewards.
The good news to mobile marketers is that 90% of users who enroll in an SMS loyalty program feel they gained value from it. Why? When you send timely, relevant and useful information to them during the shopping stage of their buying cycle, you may be credited with expediting their decision. An even more surprising statistic is that 70% of them say they would actually like to receive offers on their mobile phones.
Mobility in Addition to Mobile
As the global workforce become more mobile, consumers and employees will count on devices like tablets and smartphones to do their work at the office, at home, and while travelling. Conceivable, more workplace information will be transferred from desktops to tablets as portability becomes critical to workplace efficiency.
This same portability is also gaining favor among mothers needing to multi-task when on the run. And when packed with photo messaging apps, mobile devices provide them more real-time social networking as well.
Ease of Use for Shorter Attention Spans
In his podcast interview with Amy Porterfield, Greg Hickman shares some startling statistics on mobile user intolerance for unresponsive web designs. For example, he points out that 74% of consumers will wait 5 seconds for a web page to load on their mobile device before abandoning the site. Perhaps even more startling is that 46% of them are unlikely to return to a mobile site if it didn’t work properly during their last visit.
Among the ways to optimize mobile sites for friendly user interfacing are the following:
- Touch interaction that avoids “fat thumb syndrome”
- Video and other imagery that replaces text
- Shorter route “calls to action”
Relevance for Space, Time and Opportunity
On a more positive note, retailers, brands and even small businesses have made strides in developing mobile friendly websites compatible with the multitude of smartphone and tablet configurations. Progress is also being made with mobile wallet solutions that expedite in-store shopping experiences while enabling cross-device loyalty programs. And with more advanced audience targeting and cross-platform re-targeting underway, mobile users are rarely greeted as “Dear Valued Customer.”
But fulfilling customer experiences on smart devices goes well beyond loyalty programs and personal greetings. Mobile users expect far greater context relevance that taps into who they are, where they are, what they are doing and when they need help. This is why the role of native ads has become even more important to mobile users than to desktop users. And if marketers know why they need help, the mobile user can further benefit from anticipated needs as well.
The mad dash towards mobilizing our marketing efforts is well justified. Mobile has traditionally taken a back seat to desktop internet marketing. But as mobile access surpasses desktop access, marketers seem to be dragging their feet in designing customer experiences that are meaningful to a mobile consumer’s journey.
Statistics show that many marketers still see mobile simply as an optimization exercise. Some are indeed stepping up to responsive web designs as a top priority. But missing from many mobile marketing strategies is a very different customer experience that extends beyond the demands of a desktop user.
And as SoLoMo matures to SoLoMoNative and SoLoMoVideo, don’t be surprised if mobile web access becomes the defacto standard for internet access in retail, at home and in workplace settings. Those who embrace this “mobile first” philosophy have a significant advantage in light of the higher receptivity of mobile users to personalized messaging and offers.
The key to implementing a responsive mobile strategy is a recognition of the distinct customers experiences expected by mobile users. In particular, mobile users place greater emphasis on:
So are you buying into this unique CUSTOMER experience? Are their experiences missing from this C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R acronym? And do you feel this gap in customer experience is due more to marketing reluctance or technology bumps?