Upwardly mobile

Upwardly mobile

With the number of global mobile phone subscribers set to hit 6.5 billion by the end of this year, brands are increasingly seeing mobile relationship marketing (MRM) as a critical area for gaining competitive advantage, according to a new study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

The immediacy, convenience, pervasiveness and personal attachment to mobile phones make them an ideal means of expanding marketing messages and enhancing engagement with a global customer base, says the CMO Council. The 6,000 member global organisation points out that mobile social networking has both become a better way to reach and understand customers, and given consumers the ability to get feedback and advice on brands, products, prices and merchant experiences from trusted friends, family and peers.

“More targeted, timely and helpful messaging and info sourcing through mobile communications channels are helping consumers get trusted advice, find the right products and source the best deals in any place, at any time,” explains Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “In addition, customers are now empowered to transact and interact on-demand without any limitations or restrictions on where and how they buy.”

But the ‘Engage at Every Stage’ report suggests significant challenges ahead. Just 14pc of 250 global marketers surveyed by the CMO Council for the study said they are satisfied with the progress they are making in accessing and using the mobile channel, compared to 43pc who say they are not and another 37pc who are still evaluating their performance.

Carried out in mid-2012, the study includes both quantitative and qualitative insights from brand marketing leaders. The survey was conducted in co-operation with the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and sponsored by Pandora and FunMobility. Some 42pc of respondents represented companies with more than US$1bn in annual sales. Among the contributors to the study were Anheuser-Busch InBev, Beam Global, Caesars Entertainment, Coca-Cola Company, Earthbound Farm, Eastman Kodak, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, JP Morgan Chase, Nascar, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Sega of America, Sony Entertainment Television, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, Unilever, Virgin America and Wyndham Hotel Group.

The study reveals that just 16pc of marketers surveyed have a formal strategy for using mobile as a significant channel of customer engagement, that 46pc are reviewing and evaluating the role of mobile, and 32pc are allocating more budget to mobile app development and channels of engagement.

Overall, responses to the study indicate that mobile “is being leveraged as a disconnected and stand alone tactic and not as a comprehensive strategy based on a customer engagement model where the point of engagement begins and ends with the consumer”. The CMO Council says it reveals the need for “a mindset shift, where the interaction and engagement is not dictated by a pushed message, but by where and how the customer identifies value and need”.

Key findings

The fact that mobile is an always-on and highly accessible channel to customers is an essential benefit for 55pc of respondents. Also high on the list is the ability to target and customise engagements (51pc).

Mobile options that increase frequency, success and relevance in consumer experiences are found to be of greatest interest to marketers. According to half of those surveyed, messaging and communications options are of most interest. Other key applications include social media interactions (35pc), value-added service delivery (34pc), rich media content delivery (33pc), and search and location optimisation (31pc).

A key reason that marketers believe mobile offers such opportunity is relevance, as many feel they will be able to reach the right audience in a more timely, cost-effective and direct manner. Just under half (49pc) believe mobile will help influence customer interactions by providing a more personalised and relevant experience. According to the CMO Council, many respondents indicated that this personalisation will lead to new avenues of engagement that will prove, in the long-term, to be a competitive advantage for the brand.

Marketers are looking for this edge through value-added services and by increasing the frequency of communications to influence customers, says the report. “Mobile can create a significant competitive advantage if done correctly due to its ability to provide deeper levels of engagement through instant, two-way communication,” says Lucas Herscovici of Anheuser-Busch. “Our connection strategy is to focus on our fans because we believe that by having our fans engage with us, they will talk positively about us and bring in new consumers. So if mobile is relevant for our fans, we need to use it – it’s that simple.”

“More than 60pc of our guests check into our hotels using an iPad compared to zero three years ago,” says Susan Helstab of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “Providing consumers with relevant information at the right moment leads to higher levels of engagement, loyalty and, ultimately, conversion. In order to do this, we have to maintain a clear, customer-centric view of everything we do, and that involves breaking down all of the silos.”

Integrated mobile relationship

The study suggests that marketers are struggling to completely embrace a fully connected and integrated mobile relationship. Just 16pc said they currently have a comprehensive mobile relationship marketing strategy or plan. And only 14pc said they feel they are successfully using mobile to activate their consumers.

And the survey indicates that for many marketers, mobile has emerged as just another channel of engagement, used more for its ability to push messaging through a more cost-effective channel. It finds that to date, marketers have focused mobile executions and activities around notifying and informing customers (51pc), delivering content and services (43pc), and promoting and advertising brands or special offers (37pc).

The CMO Council says that given that marketers are looking to deepen relationships and improve service, it is surprising that mobile is not being widely activated as a service and support agent. Also low on the activity list are campaigns or tactics that put the customer in control and acknowledge the shift to a customer-centric mobile relationship. Only 15pc are using mobile to trigger consumption of a product or service, 18pc are acquiring or reactivating customers and 18pc use mobile to enable transactions.

Forty-one percent of respondents said they are just looking to repurpose online content and make it more accessible across a multi-screen engagement. The CMO Council maintains that marketers should aspire to a more dedicated multi-screen experience that can connect and integrate unique experiences through each engagement channel, including mobile. While marketers are looking to translate content into mobile formats, just 24pc of those surveyed said they intend to develop content that is unique to the mobile channel. By contrast, some of the best practice leaders interviewed for the report said they take a broader and more fully connected experience that spans across two or three screens to the every-screen experience.

One of the more surprising findings, according to the CMO Council, is the fact that just 29pc of marketers are looking at mobile advertising opportunities to reach customers through already-established and valued mobile content channels. This, it says, probably relates to the fact that 26pc of marketers believe their current mobile investments have delivered inconsistent results. It says that to date, marketers are primarily testing or allocating mobile marketing dollars across social media (69pc), search (54pc), and news and information channels (40pc). They are investing less across opportunities that have the potential to leverage mobile content to connect across a multi-screen environment like interactive entertainment channels (15pc), video (15pc) and music (12pc).

The survey finds that while marketers have been actively investing in key applications like messaging (49pc), social interactions (35pc), opt-in value-added service delivery (34pc) and mobile commerce (33pc), only 15pc are looking to use mobile’s ability to drive traffic to retail locations.

Social-local-mobile convergence

However, best practice leaders are making this ‘SoLoMo’ (social-local-mobile) connection, using mobile as the connector between the social and local experiences, says the CMO Council. Jay Altschuler of Unilever, describes this SoLoMo convergence as the “holy grail” for marketers today, as mobile enables brands to get closer to a relevant, valuable customer in a new, interactive, real-time experience. “Ultimately, we follow our consumers and their needs, and what we’re seeing is that mobile is a key tool in the way people shop. We are working with retailers, carriers and manufacturers to determine the best way to approach mobile.”

Mobile offers a new opportunity to continue engagement for entertainment brands. “Customers would come to us, enjoy their experience, and that would be the end of it,” says Jeffrey Boorjian of Caesars Entertainment. “But now, we know it doesn’t have to stop there. Customers may leave, but they can stay connected through apps, social media, and other digital and mobile platforms.”

The CMO Council concludes that MRM will transform the marketing mix and enable brands to engage at every stage of the consumer lifecycle. “An effective MRM strategy will integrate social interaction; customer insight gathering and analytics; consumer engagement and loyalty; market listening; purchase incentive or inducement; and lifetime revenue optimisation – all through optimised use of the mobile channel.

“Marketers will continue to employ new mobile apps, location-based messaging, proximity marketing and smart merchandising systems in-store to attract and engage consumers in any place where they are willing to interact, transact, or stay in contact with brands. This includes rich, content-centred, multi-screen experiences that envelop retail, sports, entertainment, destination, education, mass transit and travel environments. But in order to achieve this fully connected brand experience, marketers will need to adopt new marketing models.

“Serving as the guide rails for marketers developing robust experiences, MRM will spark the global brand shift to infinite digital interactions and instant consumer satisfaction. But marketers must embrace a mobile marketing mindset rooted in insights and intentions-based mobile relationship marketing systems and platforms that can truly connect, engage at every stage of the customer experience and leverage those trusted third-party networks that span a true multi-screen life.”

This article first appeared in the winter issue of Irish Director magazine.