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Top 3 challenges of personalization in mobile marketing

By Neil Parker

Already a huge topic in 2013, mobile marketing still has a lot of room to grow. In an infographic we recently released about the different Black Friday shopper types, it was revealed that mobile’s popularity as an online shopping platform still lags compared to the use of desktops or laptops.

As smartphones become ubiquitous, mobile will become an even more important online shopping platform than it is currently touted to be.

In 2014, consumers will continue to see personalization in mobile as marketers invest in branded applications and geo-fencing, which is a technology that allows marketers to push notifications to devices when the user is within a predefined geographical location.

Location-based technologies have made it possible to alert consumers with targeted promotions and messages as they walk past or visit their favorite stores or targeted locations.

Before jumping on the personalization bandwagon, brands need to tread carefully.

The practice requires walking a fine line between personalized, relationship marketing and at times what may seem like invasive, intrusive stalking. That is why the future of personalization in mobile marketing depends on addressing the following three critical challenges:

1. Context
Personalization promises to help marketers push more timely promotions.

Accenture reported that millennials want personalization—they seek personalized, targeted discounts as the price for their loyalty.

However, most millennials want coupons sent via mail and snail mail. Other methods, including text messages, are not as favored.

Another study from Infosys reveals that 78 percent are in favor of targeted offers and that a small percentage of consumers – 16 percent – are willing to share their social profile to help retailers effectively target them.

Because of the attachment folks have to their smartphones, some initiatives that marketers see as futuristic may come off as intrusive to consumers.

If you would like to use mobile features to personalize the mobile experience, the key is customizing tactics based on what people are comfortable with.

For this level of targeting to work, the message pushed to phones needs to make sense in the context of the customer’s lifestyle, attitudes, behavior, needs and current activity.

2. Connection
The abundance of data today enables marketers to see major patterns in consumption.

Consumer behavior, both offline and online, is being tracked aggressively with the help of sophisticated technology.

Data mining alone, however, cannot explain causality.

Retailers might know that consumers buy certain products together, but big data does not reveal exactly what prompts these purchases.

To cite a slightly apocryphal story, knowing that people buy diapers and beer together might help a consumer packaged goods brand optimize its supply chain and communication channels. But this information may not help with advertising messages or brand positioning.

The sequence at which people buy a combination of items is not always obvious from looking at data alone.

Do people buy beer first before grabbing diapers for their kids? Or do diapers remind dads to grab beer or milk, or something else from their shopping list? What other purchases might be triggered or cancelled by this same set of drivers?

In isolation, big data does not expose why people do what they do.

To understand the connection, marketers need to marry big data with consumer insights from social media and their conversation with customers to truly understand consumers’ path to purchase.

3. Control
Personalization should not come at the expense of privacy. Getting folks to opt-in is a great starting point, but consumers should have as much control as possible or they will tune out.

Different shoppers have varying degrees of comfort and needs with location-based mobile marketing.

Less than half, 43 percent, of consumers are willing to let retailers track their location on mobile devices to send location-based offers.

At the very least, consumers should be able to control the type of information or promotions they receive and how often.

There should be a mechanism for individuals to indicate what type of personal data their mobile phones share with brands.

COMPANIES CAN CLEARLY benefit from connecting social, transactional, behavioral and attitudinal information with data collected from location-based service, but the value for consumers is not always clear.

Giving the power to the consumer—and listening to your community of customers—ensures that marketing messages are wanted and not intrusive.

Neil Parker is vice president of product marketing at Vision Critical, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Reach him at [email protected].