Marketing for the Masses
The idea that 2015 is "The Year of Mobile" is starting to get real. (Cue the sound of marketers' frustrated groans.) After years of being oversold on the next big thing (with underwhelming results), why should anyone continue to buy into hyped-up declarations? The answer can be found in the latest figures.
eMarketer, an independent market research company, predicts the number of global smartphone users will surpass two billion by 2016. And Ovum, an independent analyst and consultancy firm, suggests that 13 percent of the population (i.e., one billion people) will connect to the Web exclusively through mobile devices by the end of 2015. In other words, mobile is kind of a big deal.
The popularity of digital devices has changed the culture of communication—and it's on marketers to keep up. Long gone are the simple days of overcoming spam filters. Brands are now expected to deliver a seamless, high-value experience across varying screen sizes.
Whether you're still on the fence about mobile or ready to get involved, these five tips will help you create an effective campaign.
1. Plan It Out
Customers expect brands to anticipate their needs. When mapping out your business plan, think about what motivates your clients. "What do they need from you most on mobile devices?" asked John Foley Jr., president and CEO of interlinkONE, Wilmington, Mass. "Is it coupons? SMS/text message alerts? Directions? Click to call? Whatever it is, that's your starting point.
"[...] Too often companies think they can just throw something at the wall and see what sticks without having a clear understanding of exactly what their customers need, and what they need to do in order to serve their customers best through mobile," he continued.
Jeff Hasen, mobile strategist, author of "The Art of Mobile Persuasion" and founder of Gotta Mobilize, a Seattle-based mobile strategy consultancy, agreed, citing poor planning as one of the biggest mistakes marketers make. "We continually hear from businesses that they need a mobile app. But when you ask why, there often is little regard for the customer, and his or her preferences," he said. "Is an app the best way to engage with them, or does the fact that there are millions of apps create challenges like discoverability and repeated usage?"
Some brands also forget to plan beyond mobile-only strategies. "Beyond developing countries, the mobile user spends time on a computer, tablet, perhaps a wearable, and goes back and forth all day long," Hasen said. "[...] We need plans to reach the mobile user wherever he or she is in the journey."
The hard work doesn't end with your plan. Who is going to execute your strategy? "You can't assign this to your 16-year-old son who is on the phone all the time and think he'll know what to do," Foley warned.
Instead, find someone who is willing to be agile. Foley pointed out that some companies fail to correct mistakes. Ditch the "this is how we've always done it" mentality and pay attention. "If coupons aren't being redeemed, or if people are opting out of your alerts, look into why and adapt your strategy accordingly," Foley said.
2. Show Your Website Some Love
Now that you've mapped out a strategy, it's time to take stock of your website. Is it mobile friendly? More importantly, is it responsive? Responsive Web design is when your site automatically adapts to the size of the screen. When a client accesses your site on a PC, for example, and starts to shrink the window, he or she gets a different experience. "The content is all the same, but the experience changes so that no one has to do the dreaded 'pinch and zoom,'" Foley explained.
There's no cause for alarm if your site isn't responsive, Foley said. A temporary solution would be to create an inexpensive mobile site. Foley recommended using iFlyMobi, Weebly or Mobify. "Be sure that the answers to your first question—what do you or your customers need—is easily answered on the mobile site because it's not a replica of your desktop site," he reminded.
In addition, don't forget to track load time. Our digital lives are overstuffed with moments and according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the attention span of readers has decreased to a mere 8.25 seconds. Therefore, every second counts. "You want the best possible user experience for your customer that makes working with you easier and enjoyable," Foley remarked.
3. Optimize Email
Email creative is another area to watch. Marketers need to consider how and where an email will be viewed. Foley stressed the importance of testing in regard to responsive email design. "It works in most clients, though I will caution there are a few major email clients it doesn't work in, so be sure to test, test, test," he instructed. "I typically recommend companies sign up for Litmus so they can see how their email will be shown on multiple devices, email clients and browsers."
Then, there's the design of the email itself. The appearance of buttons, icons, font sizes and other clickable areas of an email should be optimized for clumsy fingers. Hasen believes it's a matter of common sense. "Limit the number of actions that you are asking a mobile user to take on a smaller screen, reduce the fields in a form to only the necessary, and ask yourself what is a must versus what creates a crowded and poor experience that will drive the user away," he said.
4. Impress With Video
Mobile video has become an increasingly popular marketing tool in recent years. Hasen attributes video's appeal to faster wireless networks, better devices that can process files and a mobile user interest in being entertained or informed. He shared some tips for companies interested in this channel. "Best practices include not porting a commercial or other video from another channel and placing it on a small screen, plus focusing on personal communications," Hasen said. "There are significant business successes shown when a mobile video is tailored to a particular user or segment rather than broadcast to all with the hope that something will stick for all viewers."
Remember that 8.25-second attention span we mentioned earlier? Keep those videos short and sweet. "That's never been more important than with mobile," Foley said. "Who wants to stare at their phone for six minutes?"
Again, it's all about strategy. "Your strategy needs to detail exactly what type of videos you're going to be creating, how they'll be created and how you're going to deliver," Foley said. "Don't forget that YouTube is the No. 2 search engine right behind Google.
"Don't bury your videos only on your website," he continued. "Use the tools that exist to help get your videos out and optimized for the device."
5. Mix It Up
In the keynote speech on May 18 at the National Postal Forum, Postmaster General Megan Brennan revealed that the USPS is testing a new feature to engage consumers through mobile devices. The project, known as real mail notification, is being piloted in Northern Virginia and enables consumers to use a mobile device to see what's arriving in their physical mailbox.
Mail can serve as a powerful complement to digital marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, some brands forget to tie mobile into other marketing initiatives, Hasen said. For companies on a budget, there are relatively easy and cost-effective ways to include mobile on marketing materials that are already in the budget. "For instance, having a call to action on a direct mail piece that leads people to a mobile website or to join a loyalty club makes the dollars work harder and become more measurable," Hasen concluded.