Consumer Engagement, But Not Yet Marriage

How many times have we been asked (or asked ourselves) to come up with a valuation of a minute of a prospect’s time and attention, AKA consumer engagement? Almost all advertising is bought and sold using some version of the metric (cost per person, mostly expressed as CPM) and yet no one seems to have nailed an equation that can reliably be used as a baseline.

How many times have we been asked (or asked ourselves) to come up with a valuation of a minute of a prospect’s time and attention, AKA consumer engagement? Almost all advertising is bought and sold using some version of the metric (cost per person, mostly expressed as CPM) and yet no one seems to have nailed an equation that can reliably be used as a baseline.

It’s not that marketers haven’t tried. The most recent expression was reported in Media Daily News at the end of July. Advertisers and agency executives were researched to determine what they “considered” (perhaps better described as their “best guesses”) on the per-minute value of engaged consumer attention and they came up with $1.81. They even produced a bar graph to add verisimilitude.

consumer engagement chart
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

This didn’t impress one skeptical reader who commented wryly: “With a sample of 300 people AND no hard guidelines as to how anyone in the survey determined ‘value’ other than for a very narrowly-defined universe, this is just cocktail party fodder.”

Even after a couple of martinis, it would be hard to derive much value from this yardstick of consumer attention. As so-called “opt-in” and “rewarded” advertising models — which let the prospect have some free content before “opting-in” through a paywall or some other device to more content — are becoming increasingly fashionable, it is not surprising that marketers are trying to put some metrics in place to value them.

This illuminates the fact that in today’s multimedia marketplace the “value” of a minute or some other measure of someone’s time, and perhaps even more importantly, attention, depends on a basket of variables that will be unique to each prospect or cluster of prospects. If we can discover which ones are critical to the purchasing process and at what point they influence the customer journey, we may have the beginning of metrics which will intelligently inform our marketing actions. The question is how we get there and the answer remains elusive.

First we need to know what we mean by “engaged consumer”? We all have lots of experience with commercial messages (Wendy’s “Where’s the beef,” for example) which can be described as highly “engaging,” because the creative brilliance attracts the attention of viewers. But that attention has no value whatever for say, vegetarians.

How much the marketer would be willing to pay for an engaged customer, someone who has demonstrated interest in the marketed category and hopefully has the resources to purchase, is more to the point? The Lamborghini dealer should be willing to pay quite a bit more for that engaged minute than the corner taco vendor.

In a September column addressing marketing metrics and suggesting that we stop chasing our tails, I tried to put a figure on the real cost of reaching the target audience for an advertiser like Pampers. Using a $25 CPM cost of a TV spot reaching only women and, after eliminating all women who were neither in the last trimester of pregnancy nor had children under two years old, I came up with a ballpark figure of $208 per thousand. In fact, with a normal average viewing frequency of five times, capturing the engagement of each one of those thousand women for 30 seconds should be worth about $1 ((208*5)/1000), twice that for 60 seconds of attention, not far off of that $1.81 guess.

But will the “engagement” lead to a committed relationship, a marriage if you will, of consumer and brand? Certainly, if the prospect can opt-in or be rewarded with truly relevant and valuable content by clicking to visit the advertiser’s website, and the website can elevate interest to purchase, and the product satisfies and stimulates repeat purchase, the investment in getting that initial 60 seconds of attention will have a quantifiable value.

But putting a figure on that value is as likely to be correct as predicting the length and quality of the marriage.

As a friend of mine says, instead of trying to figure it all out in advance, just start dating.

Building a Mobile Presence

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile. Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile.

Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training, many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Today’s brand imperative is to include mobile in the marketing mix. A key element is to establish a mobile presence. Marketers leveraging mobile may use any number of the elements at their disposal to engage, entertain, enrich and delight consumers. These include:

  • mobile websites;
  • mobile applications;
  • SMS, MMS and email messaging;
  • voice;
  • mobile enrichments, elements and experiences;
  • mobile search;
  • location-aware plug-ins;
  • mobile social media;
  • mobile advertising (from text to banner to rich media);
  • mobile commerce;
  • response codes;
  • personalization and privacy management tools;
  • optimized mobile content (e.g., text, images, video);
  • mobile access points;
  • feature phones;
  • smartphones;
  • tablet computers and other connected devices;
  • use of traditional media; and
  • market verticals.

The versatility and capability of the channel means that building out mobile campaigns could employ any combination of the above. However, conducting a campaign that simply leverages one or more mobile elements for a finite period of time is simply a mobile tactic, not a mobile presence. It shouldn’t be considered core to the marketer’s strategy.

To develop a strategy, consider mobile from every side and dimension. In developing a strategic marketing plan, brands can no longer just rely on linear models. Marketing today is a multidimensional problem set requiring nonlinear solutions and thinking.

Without a strategy to hold these elements together, your mobile engagement could suffer. One key to a mobile strategy is where you’ll establish your mobile presence. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to building a mobile presence. Just as mobile is a personal choice for the consumer, the right combination of the mobile elements outlined above will vary based on particular marketing objectives, firm resources and customer needs.

You may not need mobile apps or mobile advertising may not be the first thing you start with. You must figure out the mix and sequence that will meet the needs of your brand. One of the first steps in building a mobile presence is ensuring that you have a mobile website that functions well on mobile devices in terms of form, function and content. These aspects of a mobile website should complement a marketer’s objectives and industry.

For example, a retail site may focus on providing consumers with product information, discounts, loyalty-building programs, store locations and maybe even direct commerce options. Whichever combination of these services a marketer employs, they need to get it right by making the features accessible and easy to use. A recent Limelight Networks’ study found that 20 percent of consumers may complete their research efforts but vow to never return to the site. An additional 18 percent will stop immediately and move on to another site. By not creating an effective mobile presence, marketers are clearly losing business.

Repurposing your site for mobile may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, being able to envision how your site reads or works as a mobile site has become much easier. There are several tools available that can help you build out your mobile web presence. One such tool was launched last month when Google released GoMo. By entering your website’s URL into HowToGoMo.com, you can see what the site looks like on a mobile device. GoMo goes a step further, making suggestions and showing alternatives that will help you make adjustments to ensure your site is mobile optimized.

GoMo also gives examples of effective and engaging mobile websites to show what’s possible. It also offers a selection of leading mobile site developers. GoMo is an extraordinary resource to help you see what your customers see when accessing your site on their mobile devices, including the challenges you face in making your site as accessible and useful as possible.

Yet however critical it is, having an effective mobile website is just one of many mobile tactics. You must consider all the mobile touchpoints listed above. See how they integrate with your objectives at every stage of the consumer consideration funnel, then adjust your execution based on your needs and those of your customers.

In the end, creating a mobile presence is about providing a better user experience across all channels to help consumers engage with your brand at any state of the consideration funnel from any device or location. In the mobile marketplace, mobile presence is essentially the front door of a business. Making it accessible, useful and easy to approach isn’t just an added service or a smart business tactic that’s essential to effective customer engagement, it’s a business imperative in today’s mobile world.

Strategies for Growing Your Mobile Marketing Program

You’ve seen all the numbers. Heck, just look around. People are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to meet the needs of their daily lives. They’re consuming content via mobile devices and interacting with the physical world in a wide range of ways.

You’ve seen all the numbers. Heck, just look around. People are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to meet the needs of their daily lives. They’re consuming content via mobile devices and interacting with the physical world in a wide range of ways.

The importance of mobile in our daily lives was recently reflected in a July 2011 report from Metacafe:

  • 31 percent of survey respondents said they can’t live without their mobile phone;
  • 22 percent said they can’t live without their smartphone;
  • 19 percent said they can’t live without their video game console; and
  • 7 percent said they can’t live without their tablet.

If that weren’t enough, the other categories in the survey show that consumers also find radio, newspapers, magazines, TV, laptops and PCs, and e-reader devices to be of value as well, all of which are increasingly taking on a mobile hue. Mobile is fundamentally shaping how the modern-day consumer interacts with the world.

It’s certainly exciting watching the growth of mobile and its use for consumer engagement and marketing. However, when you look at the adoption numbers of mobile, as well as all the ways consumers are using their mobile devices, we’re not seeing an equal growth of media spend within the mobile media and advertising categories. True, there’s a number of forward-looking brands that have embraced mobile as a medium to engage their customers, but for the majority of brand marketers mobile still eludes them.

They don’t have a mobile presence; that is, the majority of marketers have yet to deploy a mobile-optimized website, application or messaging solution that seamlessly interfaces their core brand message, offerings, content and customer relationship management solutions.

It’s clear that brand marketers are beginning to emotionally understand the strategic imperative of mobile, but when it comes to allocating budget the results speak for themselves. Most marketers haven’t moved past the emotion of knowing they need mobile to the next stage of critical decision making in order to allocate larger portions of their budget to mobile.

There are a number of factors that, if addressed, can help brand marketers make informed investment decisions in the mobile space. What brands want or need are:

  • comparable case studies and benchmark metrics from players within their respective market sector;
  • research that provides directional evidence of brand marketing spend allocations across industries and media;
  • efficiencies in mobile presence development and media buying/targeting across all media; and
  • education on why and where spending can be effectively applied to meet specific objectives, how to execute programs that enhance engagement at every stage of the consideration funnel, and when programs should be developed and delivered — and in what sequence.

Research, education and experience sharing (i.e., case studies) are all factors that can be addressed in short order. Market players (e.g., brand marketers, agencies, media and advertising companies, and the myriad of mobile experience enablers) need to join forces with the common understanding that the world is mobile. A collective force — e.g., the global Mobile Marketing Association membership base in partnership with the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association and others — can create the momentum needed to address the above factors, as well as reduce industry friction and serve the consumers of today who clearly have the world in the palm of their hands. They just need guidance on how to embrace it. A great place to join forces is at trade events, within association committees, with our respective customers and communities, and, most importantly, within our own firms. To embrace tomorrow you must embrace mobile today. Life is mobile.

The Connected Consumer is Changing The Face of Marketing: Understanding the Importance of Trust

In January, I wrote about marketing’s “meeting of waters” and how mobile is acting as the connective tissue that’s tying together digital and traditional marketing practices. The meeting of waters analogy holds true because we live in an age where people are increasingly becoming connected and these connections are forever changing marketing and how we engage our customers. Today people are connected to each other, to organizations, to machines. Moreover, machines are connected to other machines and working on behalf of the consumer.

In January, I wrote about marketing’s “meeting of waters” and how mobile is acting as the connective tissue that’s tying together digital and traditional marketing practices. The meeting of waters analogy holds true because we live in an age where people are increasingly becoming connected and these connections are forever changing marketing and how marketers engage consumers. People are connected to each other, to organizations, to machines and more. Moreover, machines are connected to other machines and working on behalf of consumers. Consider the following:

  • Over 28 percent of the global population uses the internet, and in most developed countries this number exceeds 75 percent.
  • There are 5.3 billion mobile connections — over 54 percent of the global population — and 3.7 billion people carry and use a mobile device of some kind. Within the next few years more people will access the internet via a mobile device than any other means.
  • There were 6.1 trillion text messages exchanged around the globe in 2010. Nearly 6 billion text messages are exchanged every day in the U.S.
  • Over 500 million people are active Facebook users, each having an average of 130 friends, spending an average of 700 billion minutes on the site and sharing over 30 billion pieces of information each and every month.
  • There are 175 million Twitter users, creating 95 million tweets per day.
  • Programs offered by retailers that reward shoppers for purchasing are on the rise due to locally relevant marketing and merchandising.
  • The number of smartmeter installations are increasing (a smartmeter monitors utility consumption, such as electricity and water). This data is accessible online.
  • Sensors are being placed in plants so that they can tweet us when they need to be watered; in carpets so that they can tell us when they need to be cleaned; and in pills so that they can transmit through a Band-Aid and to phone biometric readings as the pill travels through our bodies. Moreover, in some parts of the world, you’ll even find sensors on produce and a wide range of consumer goods. For example, a shopper can immediately discern what farm a head of lettuce came from, the route it took to get to the store and how long it’s been sitting on the shelf by simply waving their phone.

The above online and offline activities are just small subsets of what’s happening as people go through their daily lives. Consumers always have their mobile device with them, and they’re using them to fulfill their needs.

An important undercurrent to the meeting of waters analogy and the trend toward the ever-increasing connectedness is that people are also creating and sharing more information than ever before. Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, notes more information is created every two days than from the dawn of civilization up to 2003 combined. This information can be used to create new services like personalized search and consumer engagement.

In the age of the connected consumer, Schmidt proposes that the next generation of mobile devices may be capable of tracking an individual’s actions, movements and purchases, and over time learn their interests and preferences. Later, using location and similar tracking tools, companies like Google can alert an individual not just based on their stated or shared preferences but on system inferred and predicted preferences.

This is a very powerful value proposition, one that has the opportunity to enrich the lives of consumers. Marketers have the ability to deliver value at the time of consumer expressed and inherent need. However, you must remember that key success factors to engaging consumers in this ever-connected world include your ability to be transparent in your actions and provide consumers with control over the relationships they have with marketers.

As an industry, we have the opportunity to embrace our future and maintain the course of responsible behavior. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) along with its partners is doing just that. The company recently announced its Consumer Best Practices for Messaging v6.0. The MMA has also announced an applications committee and a Privacy Initiative Task Force in coordination with its members and other organizations like the Digital Advertising Alliance to work on expanding the industry’s best practices and guidelines around how marketers and consumers are to engage each other. The outcome of this work will allow all of us in the industry to focus on sustainable growth while ensuring that we achieve this growth responsibly.