Marketing automation is a core element of any marketer’s toolset.

I’ve been an avid user since 2009, but the way that I think about marketing and how I actually do my job have drastically changed since then.

Nowadays, there’s a new kid on the block: Mobile Marketing Automation. With the appearance of this newcomer, the question arises whether marketing automation, as we know it, is the same as marketing automation for mobile apps, or whether mobile marketing automation is an altogether different beast, and therefore, requires us to employ different tactics.

Not Your Traditional Marketing Automation

The more involved I get with mobile marketing automation, the more I'm convinced that we shouldn’t think about it as marketing automation that is adapted for mobile. It’s an entirely different animal, and one worth getting acquainted with.

Actually, mobile marketing automation is better called “mobile engagement” since its core focus is driving user engagement on the app and complementing the existing feature-set of the app.

Although the focus on personalization and better sales and marketing seems identical for both web-based marketing automation and mobile marketing automation, the essence of each system is very different.

In some ways, it differs enough to alter and change the course of "classical" marketing automation when it comes to mobile. These differences are important for two reasons:

  1. They may mean that the evolution of mobile marketing automation will give rise to a new breed of systems for marketing
  2. These differences can help marketers better define what they want out of mobile marketing automation and what potential it holds for them and for their apps.

So, without further ado, here are some core differences between marketing automation for apps and for websites.

B2B vs. B2C

Classic marketing automation systems are about tracking and optimizing user behavior on a website and in communication channels.

The focus of website marketing automation is on building a long-term personalized relationship with the user that culminates in a sale. This focus closely fits the profile of B2B organizations.

Today, while there are many more B2C websites that practice marketing automation than there were in the past, it is still a fundamental marketing method for B2B websites.

For apps, the logic is different. The focus on understanding app user behavior and investing in automating app engagement is dominated by B2C apps. Thus, the use of a mobile engagement platform, as opposed to conventional marketing automation systems, becomes a core practice for consumer-facing app marketers.

Real-Time vs. Almost Real-Time & 'Next Time'

On a website, much of the marketing automation is focused on beginning a flow of messages.

Someone opted into a newsletter, so they will receive emails and invitations, and the “next time” they visit, they may be offered personalized content. Marketing automation is about testing, optimizing, and targeting conversations with people in your database and site visitors.

In an app, the mobile moment is woefully short, so marketing engagement must be immediate and respond to the users’ real time interaction with the app.

The same personalization and messaging needs to happen with mobile engagement as with web marketing automation, but it has to happen faster and more intensely.

It affects the core experience of the user in the app, and thus are more snugly associated with the product, tying the messaging on the app and the app, itself, together.

Liaising with Product Management vs. Sales

“Classic” marketing automation is a liaison between marketing and sales teams. It aligns marketing campaigns with sales activities, and it helps analyze the connection between marketing spend and sales success.

Mobile marketing automation is similar, but as mentioned in the previous point, it is more closely tied to the mobile app itself — the “product.”

Since mobile marketing automation for apps — or mobile engagement — is used to overcome product gaps in the app (e.g. better guidance, onboarding, directing users to features they have missed, motivating users to register, etc.), it more closely affects the app’s main values to the user.

As such, the mobile marketer shouldn’t use mobile marketing automation to build a long-term pipeline for the sales team, but instead work with product managers to meet short-term sales goals.

Mobile engagement roots are tied to marketing automation methodologies but at the same time, it is different domain.

This means that marketers need to get closer to the product management role and truly form an opinion about the user experience with the product and the resulting engagement.

This widens the intellectual discipline required of them, and the focus on delighting users. It certainly makes their roles more difficult, but also much more exciting.

Title image by Giles Lambert