Beyond Mobile Marketing: The Five Channel Nirvana

By David Senior, Retail Sector Director, OpenMarket for Digital Marketing Magazine

Given that 52% of retail traffic now takes place on mobile (IMRG, Capgemini), retailers have been among the fastest adopters of new marketing technologies and techniques in a bid to court consumers and ultimately generate more sales. Mobile marketing has subsequently dominated the retail conversation as companies of every size and shape have tried to harness the most effective mobile marketing tools for their business.

However, to engage with customers in a meaningful way and maximise the sales opportunity, retailers need to adopt a mobile engagement strategy that isn’t predominantly confined to the realms of mobile marketing. Smart retailers avoid tunnel vision and are thinking more broadly, providing their consumers with a two-way communications platform through which they can receive and respond to information that matters to them.

It’s all in the mobile communications mix

Consider for a moment that 69% of people believe the quality, timing, or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand. That means the wrong move – or the right move at the wrong time – when approaching consumers can be catastrophic in terms of negative brand experience and the knock on effect of lost sales.

With this in mind, the best mobile engagement strategies see mobile marketing implemented into a wider five channel mobile communications strategy – all delivered within the right context. Whether it’s a phone call, an email, an SMS, an app or via social media – all have their role to play in delivering the right message, at the right time. Using them all helps reach a consumer engagement nirvana.

The power of a five channel mobile communications strategy

The mistake most retailers make is focusing on a smaller number of mobile channels, or thinking one channel should be swapped out for another, but they all have pros and cons. Email isn’t mutually exclusive of SMS and using SMS doesn’t mean you can’t use an app.

I recently met the CEO of a major retailer whose customers make 70% of their purchases via mobile. He told me that email is the company’s primary mobile communications channel for consumers and he recoiled when I asked about SMS, labelling it intrusive.

But every channel has its value. From the moment the customer places an order and until that order is delivered to their door, timely, relevant and personalised two-way communications are expected. Consumers may assume a brand will update them on delivery times, give them the option to leave the parcel with a neighbour, or offer the ability to reschedule a delivery for a different day. SMS is often the best channel for this kind of communication as it has a 95%+ open rate (Frost & Sullivan). In fact, automated SMS updates for customers can arm retailers with a powerful communications tool to make the buying experience more convenient and memorable.

The solution isn’t about replacing 10 daily emails with 10 SMS messages, which was the CEO’s concern. It’s about getting the communication mix and context right. Phone calls are great for research, but not for direct selling. Email is cost-effective, but 80% of it goes unread. Twitter, IM and app activity is instant, but only reaches a portion of consumers, and SMS is ubiquitous but can be invasive if overused. Working with the right partners that enable a seamless process is crucial.

Mobile engagement strategies need to ensure each asset is well informed, based on customer data and right-timing, in order to maximise customer interaction and keep consumers coming back for more.

Deploying each channel in correct ways and proportions can create a killer mobile communications strategy that goes beyond mobile marketing efforts to really set retailers apart. The trick is to remember there’s room for them all and get the right partners to rely on in order to deliver the best experience that customers will rave about.