Mobile is a lifestyle, not a channel. So the value of mobile devices emerges most strongly when you engage users in the context of their day-to-day activities. Developing an ongoing relationship with consumers means serving them when they have a specific need, as opposed to pushing content and offers out to them.

This requires a fundamental shift in marketer's mindsets. They know they have to understand user's needs and contexts in order to serve up appropriate content. The challenge lies in integrating content marketing into merchandizing and brand management functions.

Building Relationships

When you add mobile devices to the mix, that adds another level of context and complexity. While traditional marketing consists of offers in search of customers, mobile marketing lets customers search for offers in more nuanced circumstances, which provides many indicators of customer interest. The businesses that can sense and interpret customers' signals and provide offers that meet their needs will engage most effectively.

Engagement is just the first step in the process of completing a transaction. Customers today go through longer cycles of research before purchasing. Engagement is about building a relationship so that when that need arises, the customer will more naturally transact with the company that formed that relationship. Engagement is not about having a perfect mobile app or a slick user experience. It's about having contextual awareness and being event driven, that is, changing context when something happens.

Many e-commerce sites focus too much on the transaction itself, trying to optimize the user experience in order to complete the transaction. However, a good user experience is now a given. The quality of the relationship is more important. The nature of the rest of the interactions and the value, utility and pleasure of using the application or interacting with the website, strengthens the relationship and leads to longer-term value.

What are the characteristics of a good relationship? A valued relationship -- in any context -- is about meeting needs. But needs vary depending on the circumstance. My needs at home are different than my needs sitting in my car. My context is different at work than at the gym. This also changes depending on my goal. If I need something to assist me in doing my job, that is one goal, looking for a gift for my spouse, another.

Mobile technology can understand more signals about a user‘s context than any other technology. Mobile phones are a means to capture information about users and their activities.

Sensing and responding to “signals” -- user behaviors and context -- becomes part of a conversation. Like any conversation, people are more engaged when the conversation is about them. “Enough about me, let’s talk about you … what do you think of me?” Mobile technology provides businesses with a way to tune in and make the conversation about the customer.

Mobile Content and E-commerce: Leveraging Analytics

Aggregate behaviors on websites, mobile-optimized sites and mobile applications can be measured in many different ways. We may understand positive predictors such as popular content, social sources, organic search traffic terms, top selling products, length of session and revenue per user, as well as negative indicators such as high bounce rates and cart abandonments. The challenge is to link those metrics to context.

To use metrics to strengthen relationships, we need to react and respond to the changing context of users, and measure whether that response is valued by the user. A change in context may or may not be meaningful. The user may or may not be receptive to an offer when their context changes.

A good example of changing context is entering or leaving a geo-fenced area. A resort might welcome a user with a notification and offer. If that user enters and leaves several times per day, continual messages will become tiresome at best and annoying and damaging to the relationship at worst. The same applies to a physical store. If the user has a loyalty app, the store can leverage existing account data and create more targeted offers as customers enter the store.

Several mechanisms can be used to identify a user’s physical location: GPS, assisted GPS, synthetic GPS, cell ID, Wi-Fi, inertial sensors, near field communication and beacons. These geospatial awareness mechanisms allow more granular understanding of a customer’s context and therefore enable targeted offers and messaging for different geographic locations. The offers can be targeted at various levels, from regions to cities to sections of a city down to neighborhoods, blocks, store level and in-store offers. For example, the use of in-store beacon technology can triangulate the exact location of users and monitor physical context in relationship to physical merchandising.

Knowing something about where the user is, is one signal. That needs to be correlated with additional data in order to respond with a meaningful offer. This is again where that relationship comes in: We can’t push things to user's phones unless they have responded to an offer or downloaded an app. Even then, we may not know enough about them to target an offer.

There are a couple of ways to address this lack of intelligence about the user:

If we are lucky enough to have access to account information for an existing customer, more detailed characteristics of the customer can be inferred from past history data and correlated with location or demographic details. If we don't have access and little is known about the specific user, targeted offers can still be developed based on anonymized and aggregated data (available from third-party data brokers) that predict the makeup of foot traffic in a particular location throughout the day. This can be used to infer statistically meaningful characteristics of user populations. Mobile devices can also provide data about whether a user is standing still, walking, running or in a car.

In each of these circumstances, the understanding of user context from aggregate data is really just an informed guess. We don’t know the exact details of a particular user and even if we did, we cannot read their minds and know exactly what they want.

This is where traditional engagement metrics enters the picture. In each of these contexts we can leverage a range of metrics:

  • Interaction metrics: Measure pathway through content and utilization (impressions, time on page), identify high-value and missing content, usability issues
  • Search analysis: Identify improvements for search curation (thesaurus, auto-completes, best bets, etc.), identify missing content
  • Impact analysis: Correlate content interactions to value drivers such as conversion, registration, purchase, identify action plans to improve content, search, or other programs
  • Content analysis: Measure compliance with editorial and tagging guidelines, remediate issues

The power of mobile context makes it possible to target and engage users in ways that strengthen the relationship. Content and search metrics allow assumptions about the needs of users to be validated, and provide ways for e-commerce content owners, marketers and merchandizers to continually improve the quality of the conversation. Ultimately, better, more valuable content will lead to better engagement and lead to more valuable commercial relationships.  

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  Wootang01