As we get back to work after the summer break, there have been big developments in the world of mobile.

Vodafone’s coffers are full after selling its stake in Verizon Wireless for a handsome £84 billion.

Microsoft has picked up Nokia’s mobile arm for £4.6 billion.

The world’s other leading tech giants, including Apple, Google and Samsung, are pioneering ever improved connected devices. If you’re an early adoptor, or an early Christmas shopper, there’s plenty of conjecture about a new range of ‘wearables’, with Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy Gear smart watch following hot on the heels of Google Glass.

Investors win. Consumers get a better user experience. Are marketers missing out?

As marketers and their agencies get started with planning 2014 activity, the mobile question resurfaces once again. Despite the excitement around the potential of mobile – year after year – the reality is that whole new marketing budgets are not being created.

The economic recovery may finally be here, but budgets are under relentless pressure. Marketers and their agencies need to convince the more senior and influential colleagues that mobile warrants more investment – which means putting a robust strategic case for substituting or reallocating budget from other channels.

This is the challenge sitting and the heart of the issue. For too long mobile people have been talking about tactical execution rather than addressing the key strategic question – how does the mobile channel provide a better experience for my customers?

I identify 5 key questions to answer before developing your successful mobile strategy:

1. How does ‘mobile’ meet my business objectives?

Most C-suite execs – CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO – fall into the ‘digital migrant’ bracket, so it’s critical to pitch mobile in terms they will understand instantly.

Are you using mobile to drive frequency of engagement? To up-sell and cross-sell new products and services to existing customers? To win customers and market share from competitors?

Mobile has massive potential to improve business performance by creating a new sales channel or making operational efficiencies, and we have a broad range of analytics tools to track mobile performance at different stages in the customer journey funnel.

Mobile works throughout the customer journey

2. Do I need a standalone mobile strategy, or build ‘mobile’ into existing business strategy?

Most businesses still approach mobile in a piecemeal, tactical way, rather than grasping the opportunity to transform their business. This raises a key question: does mobile need its own strategy, or mobile should be built into the broader business strategy?

Mobile has revolutionised the fortunes of a few industries – media, entertainment, gaming, retail, travel – and others will follow. Mobile ‘is’ their business.

For your business to realise the impact of mobile, you need to hire dedicated knowledgeable mobile people or retrain existing teams, and to deliver mobile services by developing internal mobile capabilities or by outsourcing to credible mobile solutions providers.

You’ll need to develop a detailed mobile roadmap which dovetails with your comms, content and data roadmaps.

3. Who are my ‘mobile consumers’?

The most important person in your mobile strategy is the consumer. Do your research and understand their mobile and tablet ownership and usage patterns. If you know your target audience is rich in tech savvy digital natives, you’re likely to win with most mobile technologies. If they’re ‘digital migrants’, whose knowledge of mobile is limited to SMS and web browsing, you’re unlikely to win with apps, and you’d be unwise to assume they trust mobile payments or NFC.

Whatever the target audience, think about the fundamental differences between desktop and mobile: the device itself, consumer intent, and context. And remember to harness mobile’s greatest strengths: personalisation, geo-targeting, and immediacy of message and response.

4. How do my customers engage with our business via mobile?

Start developing your strategy by thinking about the different situations in which consumers use mobiles – not by thinking about mobile sites or apps in the first instance.

Mobile works in situations such as following up on a TV ad, searching for a restaurant, scanning barcodes or action codes in a store, or simply reading emails on the commute to work. Don’t think about smartphones; think about smart users.

Translating the strategy into practice requires a mobile plan which defines the options for reaching, interacting, converting and engaging your mobile audience throughout the customer lifecycle. Of course, this is where the real time and investment kicks in – Execution. The main areas to consider are developing your mobile presence through a mobile optimised site, investing in apps (if the target audience and consumer benefit justify the investment), discovery and promotion through mobile search and advertising, mobile couponing and other CRM activity, mobile payment options, developing integrated location and social plans.

5. How do I optimize mobile performance and maximize ROI?

Mobile is always ‘work in progress’. Smart online businesses constantly improve their site designs and content to help improve customer journeys and experiences to grow sales. The same principle applies to mobile.

Conversion Rate Optimisation – which focuses on improving the returns from sites and apps through a structured approach – is a business philosophy you need to embrace and sell in. The goal is to blend customer research, web analytics, and competitor benchmarking to get and stay a step ahead of your market.

Remember, mobile provides a detailed data trail for time- and location-based tracking. And, as we don’t share our handsets, one mobile phone has one user, so we can link every mobile interaction to one named individual.

This allows micro-targeting on a level other channels cannot match, and an excellent opportunity for A/B and multi-variate testing for all your mobile messaging, offers and ads as the basis for constant performance improvement and superior ROI.

Mobile strategy will be unique for every organization.

Considering these key 5 questions should set you on your way to harnessing mobile’s power to transform your business in 2014.

Rob has written a mobile best practice guide with co-author Dr Dave Chaffey:

Winning with Mobile: Creating a strategy for Mobile Marketing, Mobile Commerce and Mobile CRM.

Download from Amazon

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