Mobile

Why everyone is thinking about mobile marketing all wrong

Image Credit: Ivan Walsh/Flickr

If there’s one thing I’m sure of as a marketer, it’s that mobile is more than its channel — it’s a behavior.

The rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets has created an ultra-connected mobile consumer, which has permanently disrupted the shopping experience. Mobile devices have become a habit we’ve integrated into our daily lives that have dramatically changed the ways we interact with the world.

As eMarketer analyst Catherine Boyle recently explained: “Local mobile ad spending is on the rise. But the definition of local for one advertiser can be very different from another. It’s when you want to get into a one-to-three block radius around a specific location, that’s where the advertiser really needs to do a lot of research.”


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This requires marketers to stop limiting the capabilities of mobile marketing to its channel only. I don’t say this to call out errors or mistakes — I say this to help marketers realize the power of mobile marketing in untangling and facilitating the path to brick-and-mortar.

As more purchasing decisions become aided by mobile devices, savvy marketers need to shift their focus and think differently.

Mobile is a behavior, not just a channel

Mobile behavior is transforming the traditional path to purchase — with mobile consumers increasingly looking to embrace their phones. In fact, Google reports that 79 percent of mobile consumers are using their devices to aid in shopping activities and 84 percent use their devices in store.

In response to this, retailers have taken the approach of testing and building varying approaches to connect with consumers across the shopping journey from online to in-store. For example, consumers can download the Home Depot app and read product reviews in-store by scanning product UPCs. Beyond in-store, the app displays real-time inventory, makes it easy for consumers to buy products online and pick-up in store and even locate products through the use of an in-store map & aisle locations.

Urban Outfitters,on the other hand, is relying on loyalty and social as key drivers for their mobile strategy. Urban Outfitters added a news feed to its mobile application to encourage repeat visits and help consumers stay up to date on sales and events. Furthermore, the UrbanOn app syncs with users’ social networks, while distributing reward points when users mention the brand on Twitter or Instagram. Other features intended to drive store traffic and frequency include integration of the Urban Outfitters music player and ongoing access to sales, new collections and events

Both examples, although very different audiences, exhibit the following three key characteristics that drive impact with mobile and seamlessly move shoppers from the second screen into physical stores.

Ditch the random and make it locally relevant

Consumers want messages that are relevant to them — for the products they want, at the stores in their neighborhood. While retailers have been focused on what’s ‘sexy’ in local — iBeacons, geofencing and other technologies — we need to consider how consumers already interact with their devices and take advantage of that behavior.

Anything that adds work on the consumer side — from opt-ins to turning on their location settings — may sound good on paper, but today’s mobile consumer quickly tires of novelty that requires effort.

Like Home Depot, Lowe’s has been an early adopter of localized mobile marketing. The home improvement retailer mastered the art of the simple with its brilliant mobile campaign leveraging Vine, a mobile app that enables users to create and post short six-second home improvement video clips.

Not only are these clips simple — “Keep bugs out of your sandbox with a little cinnamon” or “Use caulk to make it stay put” — but they’re also in tune with home improvement shoppers’ local needs. This is a perfect example of how a brand enables consumers to access tips to common home improvement problems in a mobile-friendly way while on-the-go and ultimately, drives these mobile shoppers to make a purchase in a local Lowe’s store.

Prioritize personalization

Consumers are not only expecting tailored experiences as part of their shopping experience, but they also gravitate toward retailers that offer more customizable options or the ability for the consumer to interact on their own terms. This is going to be important as retailers launch in-store beacon technology. A Beacon is essentially a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter that can track the location of a customer and allow for advertisers to serve ads to the customer based on location. Retailers like Macy’s & Safeway have started testing Beacons to communicate with customers in-store.

Major League Baseball was one of the first to adopt this technology and has installed thousands of transmitters in their parks. So the MLB creates a better fan experience by offering coupons and help navigating the park through their custom app. Imagine leaving a ballpark on a Saturday and up pops a coupon for $5 off a ticket for a game the following Wednesday. This allows the teams an ability to manage seats, inventory, while providing value and increasing fan loyalty. But it remains to be seen if consumers will see this beacon-enabled content as valuable or annoying, invasive and irrelevant – which, in turn, will turn them off and away from the brand altogether.

When you simplify, you win

From Belly to Shopkick to ibotta, mobile shopping startups have lured brands with the promise of mobile consumer engagement. However, the verdict is still out on their ability to drive loyalty, brand connections, and most importantly, generate consistent revenue.

For example, according to a PayPal commissioned Forrester study, PayPal tapped into existing behaviors with its two-step, mobile express checkout that has increased mobile sales conversion by 30 percent and increased retailers’ incremental sales by 35 percent. Some marketers might argue with the specifics of this campaign, but the key is that it makes the mobile experience simpler for consumers. With PayPal, your payment account is already linked — that makes it easier for consumers to say ‘yes’ instantly to making a mobile purchase.

There’s no such thing as a national customer

With most mobile consumer sessions averaging about 15 seconds, the easier you can make things for the shoppers to engage is more important than how fun it is. Whether it’s ‘opting in,’ filling out mobile sweepstakes forms or printing out coupons, as good as it may sound on paper, today’s mobile consumer quickly tires of novelty that requires extra effort.

The implications of localized mobile marketing are clear: Marketers who want to succeed at mobile must understand the individual motivations, behaviors and varying paths to purchase of consumers first. From there, it’s up to marketers to provide locally relevant, contextually targeted and engaging experiences and advertising that are native to the user experience. If they don’t, consumers will quickly move on to competitors who do.

Jeff Fagel is CMO at G/O Digital. With more than 20 years of brand, digital and startup marketing experience, Fagel has held multiple leadership roles at PepsiCo, Frito-Lay & and Sears Holdings. You can find Jeff on and Twitter.


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4 comments
Adrew Miller
Adrew Miller

I think top reason is scamming, many peoples are snatched there reputation through mobile marketing without any income.

but online advertising is still better way for marketing & peoples are using that on world level.

Thank you 

Hayley Pearce
Hayley Pearce

You've really hit the nail on the head with this article and especially when you round things off with the part about providing "locally relevant, contextually targeted and engaging experiences and advertising that are native to the user experience." PubNative provide truly native ads via an API, and they see the value of fitting ads with the form and function of an app - http://pubnative.net/

Ted Fagenson
Ted Fagenson

Spot on commentary Jeff.  I've tried Shopkick and iBotta, and to be honest, neither have the relevancy you've mentioned in your article.  Shopkick is especially annoying as its reminder-based algorithm is simply informing me of any offer, not offers I truly care about.


I will however disagree with your comment about user engagement.  Quick, yes, but fun is also an essential component of the equation.   Consumers are willing to be interrupted when the app delivers entertainment, motivation, and rewards.  

jeff fagel
jeff fagel

@Ted Fagenson

Hey Ted, Interrupted when it's relevant, yes, I'm with you...if I'm pinged with an offer for a feminine hygiene product, not so relevant, $2 off a beer at at Cubs game, relevant.  A treasure hunt in-store, we can agree to disagree, shopping with kids while scanning bar codes for .50 off, limited in application & relevancy...from what I've seen.

Jeff