Digital marketing has enjoyed a phenomenal decade. The explosion of channels has increased the options available for reaching a targeted audience, from search and display through to SMS and social networks. Little wonder that it now commands the lion’s share of marketing budgets. Even better news is to come.
Consumer adoption of smartphones is about to hit a tipping point - although currently around four in ten website visits come via a mobile phone, by next year it will be the majority. Sitting at the heart of the consumer’s life, the mobile is effectively aggregating all of those channels into one place. That ought to make digital marketing easier. If you can understand how that handset is being used - what apps, media and channels are being accessed - it will provide an integrated insight into how marketing is being consumed.
Reaching that nirvana will require a number of things to happen. Here are three critical success factors for the new world of mobile marketing.
1. Building the mobile audience
Access to the subscriber base of mobiles has to become more widely permissioned, affordable and sustainable. Mobile networks are trying to get their act together to offer their customers out to advertisers while at the same time protecting those individual relationships. Brands are equally trying to build direct contact via mobile-optimised websites and apps.
This is not an easy task when a mobile user can choose from over half a million apps to download. Even m-sites present challenges since they need to be optimised for a number of completely different tasks, ranging from store location to online purchase. Making the right choices and then sewing the mobile channel together with other digital options in parallel is also a big ask.
And consumers want all of those choices to be available at the same time, using an app for quick product research or purchase in one mode, then using the mobile web for longer visits. That does mean two bites at the same cherry for marketers, but it equally means two opportunities for the experience to go wrong.
2. Managing the multi-channel world
Great marketing needs specialists. You won’t be very successful in a digital channel unless you work with somebody who truly understands it, whether it is SEO, email or mobile. Fortunately, the huge adoption of digital marketing has created a reasonable skills base in the industry, although it remains an open question as to the wisdom of growing your own talent around the latest options such as social media and mobile. If your business doesn’t have its own creative department, for example, does it make sense to operate an in-house social team?
What the company does need are the multi-channel generalists - marketers who are able to take a view of every channel that is in use, ensuring that the customer experience is consistent and positive, rather than overloaded or disconnected. There are very few of these around, especially those whose repertoire includes the new mobile world. So if you find one, value him or her.
3. Understanding the data
The one thing which remains unchanged, regardless of how many channels are in use, is the need to have data at the heart of the marketing process. Only an integrated understanding of the customer based on as many pieces of data as can be collected is likely to deliver the effective always-on experience which consumers are now looking for.
Mobile’s rise does present a challenge to this data strategy, not least if networks act as gatekeepers in the relationship. Ensuring that apps and m-sites have data capture baked in is critical, as is bringing that data stream into play in the single customer view.
It is hard to point to many brands that have managed to bring all three of these elements together successfully, although there are some retailers - Argos, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare - who are ahead of the game. For everybody else, there is still time to figure it out - consumer use of mobile has not yet passed that tipping point. But the clock is counting down...