The Mobile Channel: pinpoint targeting, minimal waste, maximum ROI

Robert Thurner
Commercial Director
Incentivated


Despite their very best efforts, my wife and two daughters are yet to convince me that the family needs a dog.  Until they do, adverts for dog food will be wasted on me. However, for dog owners who care passionately about the health and diet of their four legged friends,’ dog food adverts are much more relevant.

With dog owners spending millions of pounds per year on dog food, competition to build customer loyalty is fierce. It is therefore not surprising that dog food brands are turning their attention away from poorly targeted campaigns (which waste precious marketing budgets and result in disappointing ROI) in favour of more personal interaction with their customers.

However, it is not just dog food brands who are making the change. Whether you’re selling dog food, dishwashers or holidays, the challenge remains the same – to develop highly targeted, one-to-one relationships with customers in order to improve customer acquisition and long term retention. Increasingly, it is the mobile channel which is being seen as the catalyst to this change.

For marketers, mobile offers brands the ability to put the consumer at the heart of the communications process. Unlike PCs (which tend to be used by multiple users) mobile phones are much more personal devices.
They are the nearest thing to a direct connection into the consumer’s mind anyone is likely to attain in the near future and this makes them a powerful channel to deliver highly targeted and relevant information.

Given their nature, mobiles are also portable and thanks to GPS we can now capitalise on this to track their location and send location-specific information.  Mobile phones are ubiquitous and are with us 24/7,
at home, at work and when we are on the move making them an instant, real-time response channel for any other media channel. In addition, new technology means results can be accurately measured and tracked back to specific campaigns in specific media, for example, real time reporting on SMS responses requesting brochures, content delivery, click through to mobile internet sites and detailed analytics of pages browsed.

Given its strengths, it is little surprise that the mobile channel is now seen as the glue which unites other elements of the campaign mix: above the line advertising, sponsorship, DM, PR and sales promotion.  It is the ultimate “me, here and now” medium. However, if you thought mobile was just about text messaging, think again. Sending an SMS to a short code in broadcast or print media is only the start of the mobile journey.

Mobile internet takes off
A new generation of 3G handsets is currently flooding the market allowing a superior user experience of the mobile internet and content downloads. According to research conducted by comScore and Telephia an estimated 5.7m people in the UK used a mobile device to access the internet during January 2007 which represents 19 per cent of the 30m people who accessed the web from a PC – a further example of the role mobile plays in bringing people from the offline world into the online environment.

Vodafone is the latest of the operators to offer flat rate data charges, removing one of last barriers to people browsing the mobile web.

 

Mobile advertising consolidation
Anticipating the growth of mobile internet browsing, there’s been a spate of acquisitions in the mobile advertising space, with Microsoft buying Screen Tonic, and AOL buying Third Screen Media.  As figures emerge that people in the UK and US are prepared to accept ads in return for free minutes, content or games, we all anticipate with great interest the launch of Blyk’s free-to-consumer mobile proposition later this year to see just how tolerant people will be.

However, what we need to remember is that advertisers need to tread carefully as poorly targeted ads, sent at the wrong time of day promise to damage brand reputations rather than strengthen them.

Added dimension to Search
And let’s consider the dynamics at work as the giants of the internet search world get set for the

world of mobile search.  Mobile’s location based capabilities add a new dimension to the traditional search model, allowing browsers on the move to locate everything from acupuncturists to vets based on their immediate proximity.  Not surprisingly, the mobile operators, who have extensive knowledge of their subscribers’ mobile behaviour, will be putting up a fight to monetise this lucrative new revenue source.

Conclusion – for now …
What started as a trickle two years ago – with early adopting brands from the entertainment and leisure sectors cautiously dipping a toe in the mobile channel – has rapidly turned into a stream of blue chip brands now embracing mobile as a core part of their marketing mix.

Whether brands want to send information reminders to their customers, launch exciting competitions or drive sales via intuitive mobile CRM programmes, what is clear is that mobile plays a key role in the entire customer journey - from acquisition, to retention and long term customer loyalty.

The mobile channel provides immediacy, engagement, interactivity and instant measurement, yet all the while remaining very private. Even those wedded to old media thinking are taking mobile seriously, and proving that old dogs are up for learning new tricks.

 

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