5 musings on mobile space

We interview Justin Orgel, Director of Strategic Services at Experian Marketing Services to hear his take on the mobile space and the year ahead.

Q: What excites you most about the mobile space?

JO: I, like almost everyone else, spend a psychotic amount of time on my phone. When brands do mobile right, they have the opportunity to actually become a part of my daily routine. That’s such an exciting opportunity for marketers to engage at a level that is so much deeper than simply transactional.

For example, Yahoo has created an ecosystem of apps and content that is based on daily habits, and it’s the first thing their customers look at when they wake up. They can check sports, the weather, their email and Yahoo Finance, all from their mobile phone. Their content provides actual value, and as a result, builds a much stronger relationship with the brand.

The most exciting thing about mobile is that it’s nowhere near maturity and has many applications that have yet to be developed. From a marketer’s perspective, there is so much room for new and different customer experiences that are not intrusive, but actually add value and complement the full brand relationship.

Q: How can marketers walk that line between personal and intrusive?

JO: It’s a really interesting topic right now. I think each brand has a different definition, because every brand has a different relationship with its customers. The key is to listen to your customers and test ideas systematically.

That said, there are a few tactics that are generally “best practices.” A big one is creating a preference center where the customers can decide on the types of messages they want to see and opt-out of at any time. Giving customers control over how they engage is ultimately the best way to ensure that you’re respecting their individual wishes.

Another recommendation I often offer to clients is to be very upfront and transparent about what you plan to send, how often, in what channels and what the value is. When customers subscribe to your text message program, or enable push notifications in your app, be clear about how often you plan to engage and the added value these messages will bring to their experience.

Finally, make sure that the messages you’re sending are relevant! Take advantage of technology and machine learning that can understand what interests your customers and send contextual push notifications at times that make the most sense for them.

Q: What’s the most common mistake you see clients make when they build a mobile program?

JO: Definitely the most common mistake I see with mobile programs is not connecting the mobile ecosystem with other marketing efforts. For example, I’m working with a retailer who has a mobile app, but they’re not currently connecting that data into their email channel. Because they don’t have a holistic view of what the consumer is doing, they’re not able to message appropriately and target her with better offers. This is a significant challenge because of the many systems marketers use to drive their various channel campaigns, but as we’ve seen with a lot of our clients, the ability to bring that data together can have a significant impact on customer relationships (as well as revenue).

Q: What is your advice for marketers who are trying to get into the mobile space?

JO: My biggest piece of advice is that you have to assess what your audience will be responsive to. Walk in their shoes to get into the mindset of your customer and try to understand: What’s the value or purpose of marketing on mobile? For some brands, apps make perfect sense. But for other brands (and I see this often with retailers), they are simply replicating the catalog experience or their website in app form. If there is no added benefit from the web experience, it’s going to be very hard to convince customers to download and interact with your app.

For marketers who want to start slow with mobile, I often suggest starting with a text message campaign. Use SMS promotions to capture email addresses or begin building a mobile subscription list. Text message programs require much less development and investment than apps, and for operational messages especially, they can be highly effective. They can also help you gauge interest and value, and ultimately make the business case for expanding your mobile strategy.

Q: Any other predictions for 2016?

JO: I think this is the year that retailers will really start to use mobile as a way to bridge the gap between online and in-store data. The app experience is going to become a lot more robust, and along with that, mobile payments and beacon technology will become more regular. Data from these emerging technologies will help marketers tie in-store behavior to the rest of their marketing efforts. For example, if location data shows that a customer comes into a physical store but doesn’t purchase anything, marketers could target them with a reminder email the same way they do in for online shopping.

In general, I think that 2016 will still be a bit of a struggle as marketers try to figure out the best way to engage in the mobile space. But the biggest opportunities will come when brands can create an infrastructure that facilitates the exchange and marriage of all data to create segments and messaging that make sense in many different channels.