A Common Sense Approach to Mobile Marketing

With mobile-device penetration at 89 percent among U.S. consumers, according to the CTIA Wireless Association, marketers who ignore the power of mobile media risk being left behind. Consumers will increasingly operate in a world of mobile ubiquity where personal devices deliver value, utility, communication and entertainment on their terms and on-demand.

This is positive news for marketers. Mobile marketing distinguishes itself from other kinds of digital marketing in its ability to influence consumers at the point of sale. A smart mobile marketing program cannot only guide consumers to the store shelf or online checkout, it can engage consumers as it drives consideration, sales, loyalty and advocacy at every point in the conversion process.

While this information rightfully is directing many brands to incorporate mobile technology into their marketing efforts, marketers should adopt a cautious approach. A successful, thorough and engaging mobile marketing program cannot happen overnight. It needs to be built with a strong foundation and then enhanced for the best possible consumer experience and marketing results.

The following three incremental stages for implementing mobile communications strategies make it possible for marketers to ease their brands into the mobile medium without sacrificing quality, efficiency and results.

Stage one: Offer a scaled-down version of your Web site optimized for mobile users. Start by giving mobile consumers access to key information with a WAP (wireless application protocol) site. Unlike mobile applications that can be expensive to build and very limited in their reach, WAP sites can be accessed by anyone with an Internet-enabled mobile device.

WAP pages should summarize the information your consumers need while providing content, utility, value or entertainment. Don’t expect instant consumer adoption. This experience is limited and will not fulfill consumers’ passion, especially savvy mobile consumers. But if your WAP site solves a need, consumers will come.

Study the data from your WAP site to learn how and why mobile consumers use it to help illuminate your next steps. This is a low-cost, low-risk way to learn about how mobile consumers wish to interact with your brand.

Stage two: Enrich the mobile experience to be engaging. Build upon the basic utility of your WAP site or application by providing a deeper brand experience through additional content, functionality, utility or entertainment that engages mobile consumers. But don’t add bells and whistles for their own sake. Data shows that most of the 75,000 mobile applications get largely cast aside after the initial download. Create an experience that meets real, ongoing needs in a way that’s congruent with your brand. That means seeking consumer insights to truly understand those needs, then leveraging the unique, native properties of the mobile device to address them.

Next, leverage the full tactile capabilities of the mobile device to highlight your brand and its products and services. Is the brand a service that fixes broken cellular phones? Offer an application as a calling card that displays a cracked screen becoming whole again. Is it a movie theater chain? Create an app that offers show times, GPS-based mapping, ticket purchasing and film trailers. Allow people to check off upcoming movies of interest for a reminder text when tickets become available. Whatever the brand, create an experience around the thing of value the product or service delivers.

Marketers should seek long-term engagement with their consumers to extend their brands’ relationships with them into the still-nascent world of mobile media. Mobile is a long-term play, and efforts should be about positioning a brand for a larger payoff.

Stage three: Harvest the full experience to drive sales. The ultimate payoff for mobile, of course, is a marketer’s ability to use the mobile experience to drive sales by steering consumers down the conversion funnel. It’s still about leveraging organic consumer behavior online, especially on social networking platforms. But it’s the ability to affect offline behavior where the full advantages of mobile get powerful. Brands like Gap, with its instant coupons to people who travel near a store; Benjamin Moore, with its app that lets users match paint colors to what they photograph; and Zagat, with its restaurant finder, have all developed mobile applications that tie their brand directly with the needs of the consumer.