Are You Meeting Your Customers’ Mobile Needs?

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior?

Game Changing TechAs modern marketers, we put a lot of thought and effort into our digital marketing programs. The goals are to promote engagement with our brands, drive traffic to our website or encourage customers to walk into a store. Many times, the goal is all three.

Most of the U.S. population — 61 percent — say they use mobile phones for shopping activities, according to the 2017 Synchrony Financial Digital Study recently completed. But, what would resonate with them in terms of digital marketing and more importantly, what would drive their behavior? Based on the referenced survey, there are specific elements of mobile marketing that consumers tell they are interested in.

Significantly, 50 percent of consumers said if their favorite retailer sent offers to their mobile devices, they would shop there more often. Mobile marketing can include in-app messages, push notifications, beacon / location based offers, SMS messages and voice recognition.

Given this consumer interest, how many companies are investing in mobile technology? The answer is, it depends. According to “The State Of Digital: A Mobile Commerce Perspective: Forrester’s H2 2016 Global Mobile Executive Online Survey” by Forrester, nearly 70 percent of marketers say they are regularly using responsive Web design and mobile optimized websites. It seems that most companies have the basics of mobile user experience down pat. But fewer companies are actively marketing via mobile. Only about 40 percent regularly use SMS messaging or push notifications, and only one in three use in-app messages.

Another element of mobile marketing that consumers express interest in is location-based marketing. Almost half (46 percent) of all consumers said they would like to get relevant offers based on their location. This is overwhelmingly driven by millennials. For instance, 61 percent of those ages 18 to 25 would like location-based offers, steadily declining for each age group (only about a quarter of those 66 or over said this is the case).

But only 37 percent of marketers are using push notifications and an even smaller percentage (only 12 percent) are regularly using beacon/location support on mobile phones, according to the same Forrester study referenced above. There are certainly restrictions on SMS marketing (consult your legal advisor as to the permissions required), but some companies are still planning to implement these programs — about a quarter are planning to pilot/test SMS messaging, and 35 percent are planning to pilot/test push notifications in the future.

Mobile marketing is clearly an imperative for companies with large numbers of millennials in their current or target consumer base. And remember, Gen Z’s, the true mobile natives, are fast approaching behind the millennial population. They may be even more comfortable with mobile marketing than their millennial older siblings. Investments in mobile technology will certainly be crucial for many more marketers as these populations expect more from their favorite brands.

With the constantly evolving field of smartphone technology, people become more and more enamored of using their phone for anything and everything. Digital marketers are challenged to provide “delighters” to attract and engage the population that is most interested in using this technology. Successful digital marketing programs listen to the customer and proactively engage them, whenever and wherever they happen to be.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents from the Synchrony Financial 2017 Digital Study unless otherwise noted.

Beacons — and the Data They Provide — Help Merge the Digital and Physical Worlds

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all create marketing that is so fantastic, it becomes inextricable from the brand experience? What if those experiences were seamless between your audience’s blended physical and digital worlds? It’s what marketing coach Jay Baer calls “utility.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all create marketing that is so fantastic, it becomes inextricable from the brand experience? What if those experiences were seamless between your audience’s blended physical and digital worlds? It’s what marketing coach Jay Baer calls “utility.” When marketing is helpful and has relevant utility for the recipient, then it does achieve status as a “service.” We know it as marketing, but the recipient finds such value in it that it is viewed as service.

Similarly, because mobile is such a powerful part of the way people experience brands today, marketers are looking for ways to understand what people need “in the moment,” and provide it as a branded service.

What exactly do people want to hear from brands on their mobile phones that could be of such utility? In the past, advertisers had to make assumptions about messaging and were forced to send them without the input of the consumer.

Enter the beacon. It’s a powerful arrow in the marketing quiver, and can be exceptionally powerful in understanding and engaging people in that precious “moment of truth” when buying decisions are made.

Beacons are small indoor positioning devices that use low-energy Bluetooth (BLE) to communicate with a shopper’s smartphone, usually when they are on location or in a store. The hope is that the information sent – a text, an email, an app alert – will improve the in-store shopping experience and drive new sales. When placed in a store, beacons can detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons or customized supplementary product information. This brief video from ShopKick illustrates how it works through a trial it did with Macy’s in New York and San Francisco.

Not just for shoppers, beacons can also be used as point-of-sale systems and collect large amounts of data that can then be used to improve both real-time and right-time marketing, in-store and online.

Beacons allow marketers to deliver customized messages, usually designed to improve the shopping experience. Using preferences, previous shopping habits, location and other data, beacons allow marketing messages to be woven into the larger customer experience, creating both interactive and relevant messaging — all at the time of purchase.

Beacons are hot … a BI Intelligence report projects that use will grow 287 percent to nearly 5 million by 2018. With so many beacons already in play, it increases the stakes for getting them right. Take a look at a few examples of how beacons are being used to help you determine if it’s a good opportunity for both your business and your customers.

  • Miami International Airport recently launched an app that uses beacons to help consumers navigate overwhelming terminals and find the correct gate for departure. Similarly, an airline could use a beacon to alert people to delays and direct them to the bar or shopping choices around the corner – with a coupon!
  • The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., and The Guggenheim in New York City have used beacons to enhance the visitor experience. When a viewer approaches a piece, additional information about that painting, sculpture or magazine cover is served directly to his or her phone. While certainly helpful in educating visitors, the real power is the tracking data provided to museum administrators. That data can help curators determine what exhibits are most popular and which need to be tweaked to better appeal to the audience.
  • McCormick & Co.’s Zatarain’s uses beacons to send shoppers grocery list reminders and loyalty points based on the context of the store from the food and spice brand.
  • Retailers like Macy’s and Target use beacons to recognize, reward and get to know their best customers. This helps increase loyalty and, in turn, build a stronger relationship with them. The data collected on these shoppers also allows highly personalized and targeted offers, which will reinforce the loyalty programs mentioned above.

Beacon technology is an incredibly cost-effective and targeted way to communicate, but the best value it provides is data. Data on consumer shopping habits and behavior will inform store layouts, product placement, target market penetration and on-site displays, as well as help monitor staff efficiencies and service standards.

Beacons are also invaluable to marketers because they help to merge all the “Moments of Truth” (MOTs) along a buying journey. Because customer experiences that used to take days or even months now happen in a fraction of a second, mobile is the accelerator of the connection and the channel by which a physical experience is enhanced through digital communications.

One caution: The use of beacons has to follow the same guideline as all marketing – it must have utility. Zapping people walking down the street past your store may not be welcome, but then again, a well-timed coupon might bring them into the store they may not have entered otherwise. Use beacons sparingly at first while you test out the value to your customers and prospects.

Becoming truly customer-centric – where your marketing serves the customer rather than the product or campaign goals – is complex, but beacons are becoming an important source of the data that enables marketers to map out actually helpful customer experiences. How are you thinking about merging digital and physical experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.