Mobile Marketing Gets Complicated Again

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

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, like location, 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 director of 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 that marketers need to consider to "Deliver Best in Class Mobile Customer Experiences."

Know Thy Customer

They began with a deep dive into the importance of understanding your customer -- a true challenge on an enterprise level when your best customers may be moving between 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 understands who you are, where you are, what you're doing, they understand you in our context for interactive marketing," said Casal. "They understand your device. They understand the things you trust or don't trust. They understand the individual."

That level of understanding raises the very nature of the relationship between marketer and customer, he said. "When someone understands me at this level, I usually describe them as a friend or family member," Casal added. "This is where the marketers really get to shine -- when they think about things from an outside-in perspective."

Casal pointed to recent findings by Forrester Research that identifies "where customer experience fits into your overall mix. It's more than just good customer service across all the touch points," he said.

Context and Content

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

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

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

OK. Fair enough. But haven't we already been through this? Isn't this just personalization? 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 to move from channel to channel, to use devices, to take control of their journey through that whole buying process -- means that the customer is king. The customer 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 elements of their mobile programs, and they had far-flung responses in assessing the portions of their mobile experiences that need the most help. In a poll taken during the webinar, they were fragmented on the priority of fixing five contextual elements: location, faster pages, bespoke mobile content, rich media and content targeting. And 12 percent admitted they weren't even ready to answer that question.

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

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Optimizing the mobile experience actually starts with optimizing the web experience, 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 start talking about mobile as the predominant channel."

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

Framing the Message

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

Geo-location is a two-edged sword, giving marketers the opportunity to pitch customers in the right place at the right time, but also giving marketers a chance to scare them away. "This is great when you have the relationship with customers," Casal said. "It's creepy when you don'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 swipes and cameras to enhance security and actions, for example. "We're learning every day," said Clement. "The world is your oyster when you're talking about mobile ... The opportunity is so exciting."

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