Mobile is the next go-to channel for marketing and has been enthusiastically adopted by consumers. Deciding how to take the organisation mobile in response does not necessarily mean launching an app or becoming a 24/7 business, however. David Reed explains.
The mobile consumer is a reality - the only question is how your company intends to handle her. Adoption of the mobile phone has beaten all previous technology adoption rates, especially considering the size and quality of early devices. With smartphones now in the pockets of three out of ten UK consumers, this is a platform that is rapidly approaching maturity.
It is also the first technology to have fused itself into human behaviour. “The mobile is an extension of the self - six out of ten people keep their phone by the bed and seven out of ten would remember their mobile when leaving the house ahead of their wallet/purse and keys,” says Jonathan MacDonald, co-founder of This Fluid World and author of “The Communication Ideal” (www.thecommunicationideal.com).
“Due to that, some of the existing advertising and marketing methodologies do not migrate well into this channel,” he says. Indeed, for any organisation thinking about how to respond to the mobile consumer, some of the arguments being made will involve giving up more than might appear to be gained
MacDonald forecasts an event horizon that he calls the “year for mobile”. In his book, he describes this as, “the year that advertisers en masse pull budget from channels which upset the people of the world. The ‘year for mobile’ will be when we collectively see blind or (I hate this term) semi-targeted adverts tanking. Extreme personalisation for extremely personal devices is where we need to point toward.”
He writes: “Let’s set that as a communication ideal. Why not? Scared of failing? No such
thing – push the curve. People say you’re crazy? Change the people around you. Do it now. The public deserves it. The industry deserves it. You deserve it. I believe that advertising as we know it is in its final phase of poorly-targeted, mass media, broadcast interruption of the individual.”
Documenting the behaviour of the mobile consumer and proving whether they are stable or not is essential if commercial organisations are to risk changing their tried-and-tested marketing models. In one example, Nielsen data on Android smartphone users found they spent an average of 56 minutes interacting with their device. Of this, 67 per cent was spent on mobile apps, while 33 per cent was spent surfing the mobile web.
Reading those findings, it would be easy for any marketing director to decide the brand needs to develop an app. “The reality is that you still need to be looking at the need you are serving, not just throwing technology at it,” says Gareth Ellen, director of digital at OgilvyAction and co-author of the report, “From Armed to Charmed” (see box). “What is the utility that you can provide to the consumer and what is its value?”
In the report, Ellen quotes research by Google showing that smartphone users have an average of 30 apps on their handset, but that within 30 days of downloading them, only nine are in regular use. Getting onto the first screen of apps entirely depends on the value exchange involved.
One conclusion drawn from this consumer research is that companies need to beware of over-promising the future. While it is tempting to rush towards what innovators and opinion leaders are doing with their mobiles, the focus should be on preparing for the changing behaviour of the early majority. This much larger group is where significant value will be returned to the business.
“I was talking to one client who had heard all the buzz in the market around the mobile consumer and wanted to introduce QR codes on-shelf in stores to send consumers to information on products and also put a GPS-enabled app inside Walmart to target shoppers. The enthusiasm and interest are at the right level, but a lot of education is required around what is involved in that sort of proposition,” says Ellen.
The way marketing will reach out to the mobile consumer may yet depend on how some of the major brands decide to play in this space. In the American retail space, for example, Target has decided to invest in mobile scanning technology at point of sale. It is moving towards paperless sales promotions to remove the cost and security issues around free standing inserts and coupons. BestBuy has also just decided to implement the check-in based offer platform ShopKick across all of its stores.
“Once things like that become business as usual it will drive a massive shift,” says Ellen. But he notes that these are retailers who typically have a couple of stores in each US state. It is when Wal-Mart decides how it is going to address the mobile consumer that will transform cutting-edge behaviour into a majority habit.
If that tipping point depends on dominant providers deciding to adopt specific approaches, then it is a case of when, not if. The mobile consumer is not a passing fad, even if some of her behaviours might be. Whether Twitter or Facebook are still around in ten years’ time is not the point - that social media will be a core part of mobile usage is.
“This behaviour is permanent in my view,” says Paul Berney, managing director, European board, for the Mobile Marketing Association. “Mobile has enabled an irrevocable change at a global level.” To prove his point, he uses a simple example, such as asking any group of people a random question like who is the president of Peru. “Nobody knows the answer. But if you ask them if they could find out in the next 30 seconds, everybody says yes.”
Mobile search has put an unimaginable depth of information at the consumer’s fingertips, not just on world issues, but on every product and service. That is driving the new behaviours of click/view, click/know and click/buy that Berney identifies. It also means every interaction is now a two-way, rather than one-way activity.
“That is part of the challenge for organisations - the expectation among consumers of genuine two-way interaction. They are used to one-way broadcast of information - that is not to the consumer’s liking,” he says. To understand their frustration when this happens, he suggests thinking of how hard it is to contact a relative that possesses a mobile which is only ever switched on in emergencies. “Organisations are used to a ten-day cycle of interaction, not the ten seconds of SMS,” he says.
Leading consumer brands, such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Nike, have all understood this behavioural shift and rushed to incorporate mobile into their new media strategies. While these brands may be leading the move into mobile, that does not mean they have sole ownership of the territory, however.
“The opportunity exists for organisations of all sorts to take advantage of what mobile brings that is new,” says Berney. To take advantage requires getting to know the mobile consumer and what she wants and then, with due caution, moving the company towards meeting those needs and expectations.
That does not necessarily mean becoming an always-on business - few mobile consumers need to contact their life insurance provider more than once in the lifetime of a policy, for example - or crowding their handset with a new app. But it does mean deciding how the brand would express its values in a mobile context and putting the right components in place.