Expert interview with Mark Brill, Chair of DMA Mobile Council on the Mobile Revolution.
How developed is the use of mobile in marketing today? Is everyone thinking 'mobile first'?
I don't feel that mobile has been given anything close to the priority that it should. I would say that, of course, but the evidence is that brand spending is considerably less than both user time and revenues via mobile. Budgets for mobile are on the increase, but there is still a long way to go before it actually aligns with customer usage.
'Mobile first' can be a useful way for brands to approach the channel, and it is relevant to all businesses. Increasingly, at some point, mobile will be an element of the customer journey. If brands fail to deliver a good mobile experience, they will simply lose the business.
But no marketing channel sits on its own, and that is especially the case for mobile. With the majority of people now owning a smartphone they will connect and respond to brand marketing through every channel, such as search, web or social. It's impossible to consider any multi-channel strategy without thinking of where mobile sits.
What are the challenges in making it more of a priority?
Mobile marketing faces many challenges. Within businesses, it can still be difficult to justify the ROI and receive sufficient budget or it simply cannibalises existing digital spend. There is often a lack of real strategy for mobile too. Brand marketers tend to think in terms of technologies as marketing channels. 'We want an app' or 'we must have a responsive web site', are a common response, but demonstrate a lack of strategy.
There is often a failure to understand the customer fully. There is an assumption that all customers want to engage with brands on their mobile phone. However, mobile is a highly personal device, in which permissions must be handled sensitively if brands want to create a successful engagement.
But delivering an optimised experience to users is a core hygiene that is now an essential requirement. Beyond that, mobile has the opportunity to be the place where brands can extend the experience of other channels and keep top of mind.
So, where should a business start with a mobile strategy? What are the first steps?
Any mobile strategy needs to be integrated with a broader marketing strategy, which focus on the business needs and objectives. An understanding of who the audience is and where they are in the mobile landscape is also essential. What do they do on their devices? Do they download apps? Do they search or browse the web? Do they read their emails on their phone? By matching the needs with users in the mobile landscape, brands can create a lasting meaningful experience. The first steps in mobile should be to get the core mobile hygiene right. What happens if a customer clicks through from Twitter? What happens if they search for a brand on their smartphone? Once the hygiene is in place, brands can then develop on the longer strategic objectives. One advantage of mobile is that small scale campaigns can be used for test and learn. It also allows brands to be more agile in a rapidly changing landscape.
And beyond some of the more basic hygiene factors for mobile, how are businesses beginning to explore the opportunities that mobile provides? For example, how is social media being used effectively on mobile?
On the whole, businesses are only just scratching the surface of mobile and social media. There are some examples from Ford, Footlocker or Sharpie, who are using Instagram to deliver some interesting mobile campaigns. Gatwick Airport has understood the mobile-ness of Twitter and are using it to deliver a better service to customers. It will also be interesting to see how emerging channels such as Vine are adopted by brands. However, these examples represent just a small number of brands. Whilst many businesses have an effective desktop social media strategy, they often don't seem to realise how many of their users will be accessing via mobile, and fail to deliver a good optimised experience.
Is the touch interface being used effectively by businesses?
One interesting success of the iPhone is how it made touch screens ubiquitous and physical buttons on phones just seem outdated. In spite of the opportunities, brands haven't thought too much about the opportunities of a touch screen. Some brands have addressed the need to be 'finger friendly', but many users access their devices with just one hand. They actually need to be 'thumb friendly'.
Mobile campaigns can be an opportunity to capture user data, but brands don't seem to realise that users hate forms on touch screens. There have been some good examples from designers on developing better form UX, but it's something that brands haven't caught up with yet. The two campaigns which really show how touch screens can be used to engage are both charities: Amnesty's 'Slide to Unlock' and the Breast Cancer Self-Check iAd campaign.
And beyond social and touch, what about more creative uses? Is AR something businesses should be looking at to engage with customers?
Whilst AR offers plenty of opportunity as a unique and engaging channel, most brands have produced campaigns that are generally quite gimmicky. Consumers haven't adopted AR as much as the app developers would like, but that is partly due to the user experience. AR could be used to solve some real problems for users in imaginative ways. Those solutions will only come when marketers stop thinking in terms of what the technology can do, and start thinking about how they can help their customers better.
Similarly, location services are simply a technology that can help deliver a better brand experience or marketing. Location is very important when it comes to searching from mobile devices. Something that Google clearly understands. However, there are very few good examples of UK businesses leveraging location on mobile. The key is to understand that location is just one element of the need to create a relevant, contextualised customer experience on mobile. As a customer, I use my mobile in a different way when I'm watching TV, than when I'm in a store or on the move.
And what about the mobile experience for consumers and businesses. Is there a difference between how B2B and B2C companies are using mobile?
B2C companies generally have more scope to be creative with their use of mobile, and as with social media, B2B tend to follow, where there is very little mobile marketing activity. However, trends such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) mean that mobile and tablet marketing is becoming an imperative.
The rapid uptake of smartphones in the UK has seen a user shift into mobile - away from traditional and other digital channels. Mobile is becoming the core of our digital lives. It's encouraging to see that brands are beginning to understand this trend and create mobile offerings for their clients. The extent to which they've risen to the challenge though, varies from sector to sector. Retail has seen the most progress in the UK. The threat of 'showrooming' has created an immediate need to use mobile for engagement. However, the sector is also seeing real ROI as a result of creating other mobile marketing campaigns, demonstrating the opportunity from mobile. Other sectors such as retail banking, automotive and travel have also been developing their mobile offering to some extent.
Are there any businesses which you think have been particularly interesting and innovative in their use of mobile?
There are some obvious brands which have consistently used mobile well across apps, web or mobile social channels. These include eBay, Amazon, The BBC and in particular, Nike, who have created some innovative apps, sites and not to mention their Fuel Band.
But its early days – smartphones are only just becoming ubiquitous, and there’s lots of scope for doing really innovative or creative mobile marketing as we learn more about what’s possible. So whilst brands have created some decent apps or mobile sites, they are rarely consistent across the whole user experience.
The ones that I would highlight are:
Marks and Spencer have been commercially successful with their mobile offering for the last five years. They have a great user experience across messaging, mobile web and mobile email which integrate across other channels, including social. They are now extending that and integrating mobile into the in-store experience.
ASOS has shown how a brand can deliver a great content experience with their Fashion Up app, and their mobile only, Fashion Daily alerts. Net-A-Porter have also delivered some good mobile campaigns, such as their Shop Window augmented reality experience.
I admire Dominos Pizza as they will pretty much test any channel in mobile, whether it's an AR bus poster, a Foursquare Checkin offer or a nicely executed iPad app.
In B2B, the opportunity for mobile lies with content marketing. The Hiscox Informed iPad app as a great example of content curation. Lloyds of London are also forging ahead in mobile with their iPhone news-based app.
Some of the most interesting and successful campaigns have come from the charity sector. The Microloan Foundation interaction between SMS and digital outdoor is a good example of how brands can be simple but effective in their mobile campaigns.
On the whole, it tends to be start-ups and third parties who bring the really creative, engaging mobile experiences. The Whisk app is an excellent example of how brands could be doing mobile. This app allows the user to search for recipes, list the ingredients needed and then compares the cost over a number of supermarkets. The best bit, though, is that users can then add those items directly to the shopping basket of the relevant store's app. It's this kind of frictionless experience that can bring genuine commercial success in mobile.