Monday, May 6, 2013

Mobile - Leveraging the New Era of Brand Engagement

As a brand manager or digital strategist, it is critical that you understand how to leverage new technologies, like mobile, to engage your customers in a manner that adds value to their relationship with your brand. IBM reports that over 91% of consumers keep their smartphones within an arm’s reach 100% of the time. These digital lifelines are changing the way that companies interact with consumers; yet only 25% of companies have a mobile customer service strategy in place. As a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill IMC program, I have been studying examples of companies that have been excelling at connecting with consumers on the go around the world. Based off of insights from two articles on mobile marketing and digital content experiences, it is clear that the keys to a successful mobile strategy are customer service and brilliant content.


Customer Service
There is a lot that companies can learn from taking the time to reflect upon the success stories from online, namely those that have dedicated themselves to customer service. The same applies to mobile. HBR points out that Zappos developed an online shoe empire by empowering customer service reps to do what they saw fit and by solving customers’ problems. Your company or client’s mobile strategy needs to become the Zappos of mobile – part of an integrated approach to delivering on your brand’s promise to consumers across channels. In a recent white paper, BSSDigital recommends you use qualitative and quantitative research to better understand your consumers’ joys and pain points so that you can maximize the powerful opportunities mobile technology affords. It's time to expand your vision from using mobile as a way to convert a sale and see it as the powerful customer aid that it is.  

Content Marketing
The content of your mobile strategy is a way to foster relationships with consumers. People thrive off of stories and experiences and when your brand is positioned to be there at the very time of need with the right information, you are poised to be an aide that the consumer is ever grateful for. Remember, your content either needs to entertain consumers or help them get something done. At the intersection of content and utility is an understanding of how to make consumers’ lives easier. The luxury of having the real estate for advertising and content that co-exists on a computer is not present on mobile. BSS Digital points out that you do not need to develop an app, certainly that is quite a lofty investment, but a better approach is to ensure that your content is available and easily accessible to consumers on a 3.5-inch screen. So please, ditch your mobile banner ad budget and invest the resources into crafting content that the consumer will actually benefit from.

Where do you begin? From my analysis of the recommendations from HBR and BSS Digital together with my studies in the Northwestern IMC program, here are three immediate actions that you can take to help get you on the right track as you look to develop a mobile strategy for the future:

1. Optimize your website for mobile
This is non-negotiable. Ensure that your website has a responsive design or that the consumer is automatically directed to a mobile site. You cannot help customers do anything if, when they are looking for content on your site remotely, they are forced to squish, scroll or wait for something to load and get frustrated. Don’t force consumers to go to a competitor’s website for information - because 40% of them will.

2. Use location-based data to your advantage:
IBM reports that 75% of mobile shoppers take action after receiving a location-based message. But, the key to doing this successfully is to ensure that the message you are sending is going to help the consumer, if not you are just going to be an overbearing creep instantly ruining the relationship. Geo-targeting needs to be seamlessly integrated into your overall commitment to customer service and not be another tactic to get a sale.

3. Shift your mindset and start solving problems:
Take off your marketer hat and actually think if you, as a consumer, would appreciate what you are proposing. Johnson's bedtime app is a great example of a company solving problems instead of selling products. The app helps new mothers track their baby’s sleep schedule, connect with other sleep-deprived parents, get help from experts, and have a lullaby on hand – all working to build interactions, engagement and loyalty for years to come. This is a prime example of how to leverage superior content and a customer service strategy to foster a relationship

Shifting your focus to view mobile marketing as the powerful content delivery and customer service tool that it is will ensure that your company or client is well on its way to crafting a mobile strategy that helps grow your business for years to come. 

Martine de Gannes is currently pursuing her Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University's @MedillSchool. She is highly interested in mobile and shopper marketing and when not in the classroom, you can find her at the nearest golf course. Follow her at @martsdeg.

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