Context is now the key to mobile marketing

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on February 9, 2010

Context is now the key to mobile marketing

With mobile phones dominating consumer communications, it is predicted that smart phones will achieve 'critical mass' within 12 to 18 months, which means that - after nearly a decade of discussion and strategising - mobile marketing will at least become a viable channel to reach the masses, according to Rob Smith, digital director for Blueleaf Digital.

With the rise of the smart mobile channel in mind, the time has come for marketers to take a completely different approach to the mobile channel, starting with the idea of 'context'. What is the consumer trying to achieve, how quickly, and why? With the mobile channel, there are several contexts that we can safely assume in most cases. For example, when people are using a mobile device, many of the following scenarios apply:

  • They're on the move;  
  • They're don't have access to an internet-connected computer;  
  • They haven't got the time, ability, or desire to complete complex tasks;  
  • They have a specific need that must be fulfilled quickly;  
  • They're likely to be distracted regularly by outside influences;  
  • They're often filling time before doing something else.

With these points in mind you can formulate a mobile marketing plan, which is generally a three-step process:

  1. Define your objectives The first step is to decide on your aims and objectives for mobile marketing: what you aim to achieve, and how to measure the level of success achieved afterward.  
  2. Define your target audience The second step is to carefully consider the profile of a typical customer: how do they use their mobile device? Are they time-starved affluents who will be using the device to do things they didn't have time to do at home? / write emails / make calls? Are they mothers who just want to stay in touch with family and friends? The profile will determine the approach that is most likely to be relevant and succeed.  
  3. Define the customer's needs What comes next is the 'how' of the campaign. In fact, the whole reason for many mobile applications being utility-based (i.e. they accomplish or at least help with a specific short task) is due to the software publisher combining steps two and three here.

A good example of this kind of context-based mobile marketing can be seen in the UK-based insurer, More Than, which produced an application allowing customers to fill in the blanks on a mobile-based insurance claim to record the details of an accident. There is a need to make sure that all the right details are collected at the time of the accident and, as this is often a time when people are shaken or upset, having a mobile guide on-the-spot can really help the situation. And, of course, most people have their mobile device with them when travelling in a car. One obvious objective - apart from better and quicker customer service - is to increase customer/brand contact and satisfaction during times of trouble. The target audience here is the mobile-using driver. The need is to be able to deal with a traumatic event quickly and painlessly. Although not every customer experiences this application in action, it is a master-stroke of mobile marketing.

There are four key things that a mobile phone can do better than most other marketing channels:

  1. Location tracking A lot of smart phones have GPS technology built in, and can be aware of their current location if needed. This means that - with the appropriate application software permissions in place (with the user's knowledge and consent) - a marketing application can work out how far away it is from a particular place (e.g. a store or restaurant where a special offer event is taking place). And, even if the device itself is not location aware, the user generally is. This is why there are already so many iPhone applications that involve finding the nearest bar, restaurant, cinema, shop, or just about anything else.  
  2. Communication Mobile phones where built expressly to communicate - quickly, instantly, personally, any time, anywhere. Any mobile application that can take advantage of the fact that phones are used regularly for short bursts of communication can do well in the market. This is why there are so many 'Twitter clients' on smart phones; they take advantage of people's desire for connection and communication (and while they're they, they might as well offer a few adverts).  
  3. Filling time & alleviating boredom There are plenty of times in people's lives where they are simply waiting for something. Waiting for a train, a bus, their partner, a delivery, or even a boiling kettle. Those times are golden moments for marketers because they represent an opportunity to reach someone who is not really very focused on anything else. This is the reason why games are so popular on phones: they can fill these time gaps.  
  4. Providing an alternative Today's young people try to do more things at once (multi-tasking) than older people. For example, while listening to music, watching TV or browsing the internet, it's common to see this generation also using a mobile phone to reply to a text message, browse Facebook, play a game - all without devoting their full concentration to anything they're doing. While this developmental stage could be thought of as a nightmare for marketers seeking teen attention, it actually provides far more opportunities to get the marketing message in front of them repeatedly. Even if attention and concentration are in short supply, this wealth of potential entrances to the teen consumer's consciousness is worth considering.

Finally, once you've used the mobile channel to attract a potential customer's attention, you have to follow through with a consistent experience. For example, there's no point showing a mobile advert and then, when the link is clicked, trying to load the normal company web site on a tiny mobile screen. You have to have a dedicated mobile web site or micro-site that's relevant to each campaign, and that captures the minimum of data necessary to start building the relationship further.

In other words, make sure that your mobile advertising is short, to the point, stands out, and understands both your target market and their current context when it reaches them.

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