Redefining Mobile Engagement in 3 Steps

Eight years ago, I didn’t think I’d be one of “those people” who sleep with their phones beside their beds.  I used to wake to an alarm clock, wear a watch to keep track of time, order coffee from a person, track my runs with a Garmin, and hail a cab by waiving my arm in the street…no longer.  All of this – and much more – has been replaced by my smartphone.

In effect, I’ve finally caught up to my kids.  Anything I can do on my phone, I will do on my phone.  Thus, it no longer surprises me to see stats like “75% of shoppers use their smartphones while shopping in a store.”  Of course they do.  What does surprise me is when I’m in a store and the retailer doesn’t try to engage via my phone.  Instead, I have to remember to bring physical coupons, or screen capture an email message, or search their website (or worse, a third-party site) for discounts before I decide to buy something…not exactly convenient.

So what’s holding back retailers from being my “mobile concierge” when I walk in the door?  Too often it’s one, or a combination, of three things: relegating mobile to third-parties, treating mobile as a separate channel, and thinking of mobile as a small-scale web site.  If any of these sound familiar, it’s high time you change your approach by following these three steps: 

View mobile as a relationship, not a channel

Just like with people, if you always talk at someone and never listen, you lose friends fast.  Mobile shouldn’t be a one-way channel, pushing generic ads and offers at consumers whenever they’re within range of your store.  We accept that email is spammy, but we can set up rules to file messages if we want to take a look later.  Not so on the phone – if your mobile interactions are spammy and don’t offer value, your app is uninstalled fast.

Instead, use this highly personal device as a means for personalized and relevant communications.  When a shopper has spent 10 mins checking out washers and dryers, then opens the Amazon app, you could prompt “Don’t forget our price match guarantee,” or “Free delivery an all major appliances.”  When they’re repeatedly crossing between departments, a mobile message saying, “Try our in-store product locator” could be helpful. Even a simple mobile survey asking, “How was your service today?” upon store exit tells your customer you care.  Of course, these types of highly targeted mobile interactions require you to understand a lot more about the context of your customers’ visits.  This leads us to Step 2…

Instrument your mobile app to get better first-party intelligence.

Almost half of all Big Data initiatives are focused on Customer Analytics, but only 9% of retail organizations have Big Data programs.  Maybe that’s because so much consumer data is available for sale from companies like Nielsen, Experian, Facebook, etc.  But third-party data doesn’t necessarily reflect your customers’ behaviors and preferences.  This is where your own mobile app and the remarkable power of smartphones can’t be beat.

By adding deep, opt-in analytics to your mobile app, you can gain near-real-time information about your customers like: indoor and outdoor locations visited, dwell-time at a specific location, frequency of visits, mobile apps they use, when they actively use a device in your store, and much more.  An intelligent analytics platform can detect and interpret these metrics over time as well, answering questions that were previously unanswerable, like:  What times of day or days of week are customers in the vicinity of my stores? How long do customers stay when visiting my stores? What areas of the store are they likely to “showroom” and leave? How often do my customers visit a competitor’s location?

While third-party shopping apps and mobile advertising platforms can target types of customers like yours, the insights gained directly from your customers, via the device they always have with them, just can’t be matched.

Break down silos to create an integrated, streamlined shopper journey.

At a recent marketing conference, the CMO of a large shoe retailer proclaimed their digital marketing organization is now focused on “mobile first,” and pointed to right-sizing their digital assets for mobile browsing as her proof point.  She was one of several executives who seemed to equate mobile engagement with a mobile-friendly web site.  Not only are these folks missing the boat on mobile, but having a separate organization for digital marketing points to a bigger problem:  the shopper journey is filled with too many back alleys, off-ramps and potholes!

When digital marketing, the m-commerce site, loyalty app, and back office systems aren’t integrated, you get the annoying experience I heard from a fellow attendee of same conference:  his hotel reservation, booked via mobile from an email link, was not in the reservation system when he arrived for check-in.  I’m sure the digital marketing team counted his email response as a conversion, but the customer unhappily found no room reserved and waiting for him, and no record of the reservation in the hotel loyalty app either.

Putting “mobile first” should mean across the business, not just the web experience.  Assume your customer will find you, research your products, compare you to competitors, buy and pay, request support, rave about you, or bash you, all on mobile.  Then work across departmental silos to pave the way for a smooth, mobile-led shopper journey.

Mobile isn’t a destination, and it isn’t a channel.  For most people it has become a bodily appendage, which makes it a remarkable proxy for the individual.  The right mobile strategy enables customer insights like never before, as well as personalized, relevant engagement that builds trust and long-term loyalty.

Carla Fitzgerald, is Chief Marketing Officer for Smith Micro Software