It seems most mobile marketers have arrived at the conclusion that "responsive design is just fine fornow."

Well, maybe not.

Yes, it's easier and cheaper. But there's a growing consensus that apps must vary from desktop to tablet to phone. And now there are de riguer "contextual" considerations, likelocation, channel hopping, local time and language. In short, mobile marketing has again gotten very complicated, very quickly.

All this and more was the focus of an April 24 webinar produced by CMSWire and SDL. Lou Casal, senior directorof product marketing for SDL, and the company's vice president for mobile,Phillip Clement. Together, they served-up a soup-to-nuts look at the factors thatmarketers need to consider to "Deliver Best in Class Mobile CustomerExperiences."

Know Thy Customer

They began with a deep dive into the importance of understanding yourcustomer -- a true challenge on an enterprise level when your best customers may be movingbetween desktop and tablet and phone several times a day. Marketers who can keep pace with those customers have a distinct advantage.

"When we're in this noisy, chaotic environment, if someone understandswho you are, where you are, what you're doing, they understand you in ourcontext for interactive marketing," said Casal. "They understand yourdevice. They understand the things you trust or don't trust. They understand theindividual."

That level of understanding raises the very nature of the relationshipbetween marketer and customer, he said. "When someone understands me atthis level, I usually describe them as a friend or family member," Casaladded. "This is where the marketers really get to shine -- when they thinkabout things from an outside-in perspective."

Casal pointed to recentfindings by Forrester Research that identifies "where customerexperience fits into your overall mix. It's more than just good customerservice across all the touch points," he said.

Context and Content

Content is "the foundation" for this relationship, but context isjust as critical. If you seek success in the age of the customer, Clementsaid, you must have a context strategy.  Or as Casal put it: "Ifcustomer experience is what drives success, context drives customerexperience."

This requires marketers to think like customers so that they trulyunderstand what kind of experience the customer is having. It's no longer enoughto design a mobile app that meets the company's needs. That app needs to servethe customer's needs.

"Technical people and marketing people really haveto join hands and get together and step into the shoes of their customers,"said Clement. Marketers have to ask themselves "how does this feel" tothe customer.

OK. Fair enough. But haven't we already been through this? Isn't this justpersonalization? Clement had a question for that:

"I would say it goes beyond that. When you look at the research,you see the research is saying the customer's mobility -- their mobility tomove from channel to channel, to use devices, to take control of their journeythrough that whole buying process -- means that the customer is king. Thecustomer has power. We really are now in the age of the customer."

Not There Yet

For the most part, the audience seemed to know they must improve the elementsof their mobile programs, and they had far-flung responses in assessing theportions of their mobile experiences that need the most help. In a poll takenduring the webinar, they were fragmented on the priority of fixing fivecontextual elements: location, faster pages, bespoke mobile content, richmedia and content targeting. And 12 percent admitted they weren't even ready toanswer that question.

Learning Opportunities

"When you're looking at all these different factors at being able tofine-tune the context, some of it requires knowledge, data and insight, and someof it is just being able to properly plan for what that experience should bewith these in mind as key factors," Casal said.

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Optimizing the mobile experience actually starts with optimizing the webexperience, Casal said. "If we don't have it really solid on the web side,it really begins to impact our ability to engage our customer when we starttalking about mobile as the predominant channel."

After the web is optimized to enhance the customer experiencewith a blend of content brokers, data, segmentation, target and content, the optimization process starts anew for mobile. Simply cramming that very rich web experienceonto a 3-inch screen through responsive design won't work. 

Framing the Message

For mobile, it's critical to assess your presence through consistency withthe brand messages of other channels, but doing it in a way that respects thescreen-size, navigation tools, load times and other limitations of mobile. Casalasked, "Are you using the screen the right way?"

Geo-location is a two-edged sword, giving marketers the opportunity topitch customers in the right place at the right time, but also givingmarketers a chance to scare them away. "This is great when you have therelationship with customers," Casal said. "It's creepy when youdon't."

To be sure, the two men agreed marketers will have to invest cold,hard cash to make the most of mobile. It's not cheap.

There's so much more that mobile enables -- the use of gestures and swipesand cameras to enhance security and actions, for example. "We're learningevery day," said Clement. "The world is your oyster when you'retalking about mobile ... The opportunity is so exciting."

Title image by Sarah2 / Shutterstock. Graphic provided by SDL.