How Mobile Ready Is Your Business ?
As an increasing number of people access the web through their mobile devices, the disruptive influence of the mobile internet and social media is posing a challenge for businesses striving to reach consumers across all channels. For a number of years, a trend has been developing which shows people who buy goods online, on their mobile and on their laptops and tablets, spend more than customers who shop exclusively in store. So what does the rise of the “multi-channel” consumer mean for marketers and how can they appeal to this growing audience?
The idea of brands targeting customers across “multi-channels” has existed for a long time, but “the rise of mobile internet is coming at such a pace that it’s pushing everything into a tailspin. It disrupts all the other channels,” said a participant at a recent roundtable debate, which explored the challenges and opportunities of marketing to today’s connected consumer. The discussion was held in association with Adobe, a provider of digital marketing solutions, and conducted under the Chatham House rule, which means that quotes are reported without attribution in order to encourage a free and frank debate.
Old models of behaviour, where consumers research and then decide what to buy, no longer apply, the roundtable heard. “There’s an almost random way that consumers bounce around touch points to make purchasing decisions. Someone could be at the point of purchase in a shop and then straight back into research because they’ve seen an online review. Or they can be on a bus checking Facebook and then all of a sudden buy something.” Rather than connecting with customers through individual channels, ie mobile advertising or in-store displays, brands now have to think about how to target consumers through the “connected experience”, the panel heard.
A sneaker retailer in Guatemala, called Meat Pack, provides a quirky but inspiring example of “connected” marketing, participants were told. The company created a mobile app called Hijack, which came to life when you walked into a competitor’s store. It offered a discount which started at 99% and counted down by 1% every second while the customer raced to the Meat Pack store. The retailer stated that more than 600 customers were hijacked in a week.
“Everything will be mobile in future. Consumers are there, advertisers are not. It’s about advertisers trying to keep up with the speed of change in consumer behaviour,” said a panel member.
Why is this so challenging? “It’s been very difficult for organisations to bring it all together, because of how those organisations are set up within their own teams,” said one expert. “The way you market is done through siloed teams, one for newspaper advertising, another for the web, or through mobile. No one’s come together and said, what is our digital strategy? What is our multi-channel marketing strategy?”
The problem also exists within agencies, the roundtable heard. “There’s a huge problem on the agency side, in terms of media agencies not being structured to deal with multi-channel campaigns, proposals and briefs. They’re miles off understanding the advantages and benefits of multi-channel campaigns. There’s a creative deficit where the audience has raced off ahead of us,” said a participant. Small agencies which have grown up with new technology are often better than the big established companies at dealing with this, the room heard.
The flat economy has also dampened enthusiasm. “There are advertisers where the person at the top is blocking it, because they don’t understand the space. They are risk-averse, saying we know that TV works, we know that cinema or print works, and we’ll carry on doing that,” said a participant.
Attitudes like these will be dangerous as the market continues to evolve, participants heard. “There’s a group of people who are now adults who have had the internet all their lives. There’s a big expectation difference versus older people,” said one panel member. “Directors of companies need to deliberately tap into the young talent in their businesses.”
Consolidation of assets is also a problem for many other businesses, said a panel member. “How do you provide an engagement model through a single platform that can help them consolidate their data, consolidate their content? The consolidation of the assets, so that they can actually build a multi-channel strategy is a problem.”
Asos, an online fashion retailer, won praise for its approach. “Asos is a case study that everyone should look up to, in terms of how they nuance the different experiences across the digital touch points based on understanding whether people are in a browsing modality or a buying modality. They don’t just play out the same stuff everywhere,” said one participant.
“They make every asset, every piece of content work as hard as possible. If they can use it multiple ways, they do,” added another.
The mobile channel is critically important, said a participant. “When I was looking at the numbers, the growth of traffic coming from mobile, the business case is now obvious.”
“If you look at the mobile ad industry today, half of it is search, which works brilliantly because it’s location-enabled. Advertisers can build that into their strategy, take advantage of what people want to do at the moment rather than what they might be researching for the future. Then about 90% of the rest is display advertising, little banner ads, which don’t work particularly well. They have tiny click-through rates and a lot of mistaken clicks because of fat thumbs. Nobody has cracked the right format for mobile advertising. We’ve taken display ads from a desktop screen, and squeezed them on to a small screen,” said a participant.
One alternative to mobile display ads is SMS text messages, which is basic but works well across all devices – especially important in emerging markets – and can include links to rich web content.
Opt-in geo-targeting, whereby businesses can target customers based on their proximity to a shop, is also a powerful technique, the roundtable was told, despite privacy concerns. “You’re going to experience advertising whether you like it or not. Would you prefer it to be relevant and interesting for you? Most people say yes,” the roundtable was told.
There was a note of caution among contributors concerning mobile campaigns which win design awards but do not in fact reach a wide audience, of which there were examples at a recent marketing event attended by on participant. “They had great campaigns but they reached 10,000 people globally. That’s not best practice for me.”
All too often, organisations are missing even the low-hanging fruit by not having a website optimised for mobile. “Think about how you are going to create multi-channel content mobile-first, but scalable backward, don’t think desktop-first,” said one expert.
“Companies are already thinking about the death of the PC. People, even when they get home, will use a simple dock. It won’t be, fire up my PC, does Windows boot up? There’s a lot more disruption that’s going to come over the next few years.”
Even within mobile there are different targets. “You’ve got very different audiences on smartphone, feature phone and tablet,” a panel member observed.
The main barrier to effective multi-channel marketing is not technical, the panel heard. “There’s nothing we can’t come up with. Technology is not a barrier,” said a panel member. Cloud computing supports massive scalability, so that campaigns which go viral do not run out of resources.
The issue is more to do with the way campaigns are conceived. It is not only about mobile-first, but also breaking down silos so that all the key skills, knowledge and even budgets are brought together. “The way that we configure our idea engineering teams is with strategy people, creatives, technology people and delivery people. The only way you can deal with this stuff is by reframing what technology is,” said one participant. “It’s not the way you get the idea out, it’s part of how the idea’s made. The possibilities of technology must be encoded into the process at the beginning.”
“[We] all have to restructure our businesses,” said a participant. “But I think we’ll get there. We will evolve.”
How to market to the multi-channel consumer
Multi-channel marketing is not new, but the rapid rise of the mobile internet and social media is disruptive. Businesses are failing to keep up. There is lack of communication between teams marketing to different channels, and the best way to implement campaigns, including mobile apps or advertising as well as social media, is not yet well understood.
Today’s marketing teams need to have strategic, communications, creative and technical people working side by side in order to engage with consumers consistently across multiple touch points.
Technology, such as the scalability of the cloud and location-aware devices, are delivering many new opportunities and disruption continues as the PC gives way to mobile. The ability to market effectively across both new and traditional channels is an increasingly important business advantage.