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8 ways mobile can work harder for brands and retailers

By Gib Bassett

My first exposure to the mobile marketing industry came in 2009 when I took a job with a startup specializing in text message promotions.

Coming from a background in traditional CRM and multichannel marketing, I was expecting mobile to be a more integral part of our customers’ marketing. Instead, our service was often the basis for relatively simple communications supporting a program created by an agency.

Has anything really changed over the past five years?

Channeling right
I would argue that not a lot has changed, except in cases when mobile was adopted to append or create a business process, such as field sales or customer service.

Those “mobile channel” capabilities are supported with a variety of techniques, from text messaging, to dedicated mobile applications and mobile-optimized Web sites – all requiring meaningful integration with internal systems and databases.

From the marketing side of the house, however, mobile continues to be viewed as a promotional channel.

With few exceptions, consumer relationship development and nurturing are not part of the conversation in branded goods makers and their retail channel partners. I think the problem stems from two issues.

One, agencies and their legacy revenue models encourage behavior not well suited to helping businesses embrace mobile as a true customer/consumer relationship channel.

Two, the best moment to engage a consumer revolves around their shopping experience, which is a complicated journey that brands and retailers separately try to influence.

It is that separation of effort that leads to marketers on both sides acquiescing to the recommendations of their agency and consulting partners to pursue new creative promotional ideas over more meaningful relationship development activities.

Collaborative context
Collaboration has been and continues to be a call to arms for brands and retailers to pursue a partnership-driven approach to addressing their mutual concerns. These include showrooming, declining brand affinity, consumer price sensitivity and the availability of new commerce channels.

The targeted outcomes are metrics like total sales, volume, share and category growth.

It is an understatement to say affecting these hard metrics is challenging with typical mobile marketing efforts.

At best, collaboration takes the form of promotions or applications lacking any context around the shopper’s mission. This has led to a saturated environment of largely irrelevant and poorly targeted marketing.

Continuing down this path overlooks the opportunity to leverage mobile for what it truly represents: a live interface between businesses and their customers.

Mobile of things
“The Internet of Things” means a lot to business-to-business marketers such as I, but not your average consumer.

For marketers, the data to be collected by instrumented devices and equipment represents a goldmine of behavioral insight to provide better service, more relevant communications and create new products.

While a mobile device is just one of these data collection points, it is becoming the gateway between the consumer and a growing network of things: home appliances, the thermostat, your car, yourself (think FitBit) and, of course, products and buying channels.

If brands and retailers have any hope of surviving the rising tide of companies employing the mobile medium to develop stronger customer relationships, they absolutely must embrace a new flavor of collaboration.

Gaining and retaining attention on the small screen will require something new.

Brand and retail marketers will no longer just compete among themselves for consumer attention, but all the value added interactions possible through a mobile device.

Business moments
Gartner describes business moments as cross-industry collaboration to provide a differentiated consumer experience that benefits all parties – the consumer and the businesses working together to deliver the experience.

It is a somewhat lofty concept requiring a change of mindset for industries such as consumer packaged goods and retail that are often at odds, but makes sense against a backdrop of fickle consumer attention.

The shopping process could be described as one such moment that requires a mobile interaction to possess a strong contextual component.

Consider yourself opted into an email or Web site program from a branded product and separately a member of a retailer’s loyalty card program or a user of its mobile application.

There is no way over time either party will be capable of delivering a contextual experience that leads to a purchase without bringing the two viewpoints together.

Collaborative applications
Overcoming long-standing trust issues is important to considering greater data- and insight-based collaboration, but I think more important is that the joint applications be very clear to both parties and be capable of delivering measurable results.

Without well-thought-out applications, collaboration is just an idea with promise, not something either party will pursue with vigor.

Following are eight ways for brands and retailers to think about collaborative opportunities to drive mutually beneficial business performance:

Bundling/cross sell. Employ cross-brand affinities, insights and assortment or market basket analysis to inform cross-brand marketing programs or in-store displays and product bundles.

Campaigns and promotions. Target digital engagement inclusive of awareness and content campaigns, promotions and coupons to consumers shopping near stores in support of shopper marketing programs or to spur demand based on sales or inventory.

Crowd sourcing/product design. Recruit brand advocates to participate in product development, given that consumers repeatedly purchase the same 185 products, and pursue minimally viable designs to ensure full market rollout success of category-creating new products.

Loyalty program (consumer packaged goods, consumption-focused/registration-based, not shopper card). Register, target and reward purchase behavior as part of engagement strategy and aligned with particular customers and store locations and account team/trade plans.

Mobile/location. Leverage consumer insights in account team plans based on outlet sales analysis to test and rollout mobile and location-based offers associated with specific stores and sales objectives.

New product introduction. Personally target the 2 percent of shoppers responsible for nearly all volume in year one of a new product, by store, to test/adapt/marketing or product attributes to build advocacy prior to greater marketing and trade investment.

Packaging. Develop interactive packaging to support consumer engagement in store or for loyalty program registration, or leverage shopper insights to develop higher demand price/package sizes.

Profitable trade spend. Align trade spend to consumer and shopper marketing programs designed around brand engagement plans to minimize discounting and maximize value-based purchase behavior.

The devil is in the details when it comes to implementing any of these collaborative applications.

The data-dependencies are varied in source, format, quality and update-frequency.

FOR BOTH brands and retailers it can be very intimidating to envision deep and perpetual collaboration. So a step-wise process focused on one product/brand, region or customer is a good place to start.

It is also important to bring other parties into the picture as well.

Agencies are accustomed to a different approach and so are the technology professionals in your company and the vendors supporting systems around consumer affairs and analytics including consumer, shopper and category insights. It is this group who must also collaborate to improve the performance of their customer: the brand or retailer.

Gib Bassett is Chicago-based global program director for consumer goods at Teradata Corp. Reach him at [email protected].