Make Mobile Marketing Work for You

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Make Mobile Marketing Work for You

By Marshall Marcovitz - 08/13/2012

Mobile marketing is a low-budget method for targeting consumers.

Recent developments in the mobile marketing arena have been phenomenal. Smartphone ownership has nearly doubled, there's growing interest in mobile social content and tablets are emerging as a formidable competitor.

This new trend makes planning for the holiday season even more complicated. Where do you get exposure in today's crowded marketplace? Where do you spend your advertising dollars? Which vehicle do you use to stay in touch with your customers and prospects?

Sales have been growing year after year on the Web, while in-store retail sales have had modest growth in recent years. Last year, social conversation – like Facebook and Twitter – was the hot vehicle for reaching customers, but how do you measure whether it generated any business?

What currently hot vehicle will help you establish a meaningful relationship with your audience? Mobile! Sales of smartphones are outpacing sales of computers. For years, I've been championing use of the Internet as a cost-effective vehicle for reaching customers, but, as Bob Dylan sang, "The times, they are a-changing."

Before you leap, think about how mobile devices are being used. Cell phone manufacturers are battling for market share; Cricket even offers a no-contract iPhone plan. Mobile users of all ages are increasingly turning to their devices for answering e-mails, posting to social websites and checking the weather.

Here's a listing of type of activity and percentage share, according to The New York Times:

Sent text message = 74 percent; took photos = 59 percent; used application = 50 percent; used browser = 49 percent; used e-mail = 42 percent; accessed weather = 36 percent; accessed social site or blog = 36 percent; played games = 33 percent; accessed search = 31 percent; captured video = 27 percent.

With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, are there any mobile marketing opportunities that your company should consider? Is it time for you to include a mobile marketing strategy? Is it time to cash in on the steep rise in text messaging, smartphone purchases and mobile advertising?

Some retailers have been particularly aggressive in pursuing mobile strategies by developing specially tailored mobile websites. It's irresistible to have the ability to reach consumers when they're closest to buying. My gut tells me it's a little early to jump in and develop a mobile website, but it's not too early to investigate the possibilities and do some research on who's doing what in mobile retail marketing.

One of the trends to watch is the debate between mobile applications versus mobile websites. It's still unclear as to which mobile format is more effective at reaching consumers. I suspect it really depends on what you're trying to accomplish with your mobile campaign. Is your goal generating sales, obtaining leads or keeping consumers informed about what's new and what products and services you offer? In any case, it's such an affordable, user-friendly medium that it's worth testing when the time is right for your business.

This brings us back to a central issue: Who needs the Web with all of the new technology out there to help enliven the shopping experience? Is now the time to devote a portion of your R&D budget – now that smartphones and iPads are everywhere – to content that exists entirely on mobile devices? The momentum is shifting from computers to mobile.

Immediate Connections
Technology is now more intimate; we have it with us all the time. Therefore, we have to re-imagine innovative interfaces and experiences around that fact.

Investment dollars are shifting to capitalize on the mobile trend. Cell phones are prompting a shift in how people want to share things online, creating a market for apps that make instant sharing easy. Imagine sharing recipes or posting photographs of yourself preparing your favorite recipe and arranging your table for a fabulous dinner party – instant, intimate sharing. We're living in the age of convenience. If something runs faster and offers an instantaneous experience, consumers say, "That's for me!"

We're living in the age of convenience. If something runs faster and offers an instantaneous experience, consumers say, ''That's for me!''

Another trend to watch carefully is accessibility. Consumers no longer rely only on computers to access the Internet. According to Mobile Groove, the average session time for a mobile browser user is six minutes. Consumers concern themselves with the information a business provides on its mobile site, and the ease and speed with which they can access it. Consumers want mobile pages to work as quickly as possible. They frequently ask themselves, "Is there an app for that?"

Mobile marketing is in its infancy. Inform yourself, do the research, and then test your marketing campaign before you roll out a completed app or mobile site – feedback is very important for success. What content do you need to consider for your mobile site or website? Here are some ideas: benefits of cooking, equipment essentials, favorite cooking references and pantry essentials.

App-tastic Interactivity
Also, consider adding apps to your mobile retail marketing wish list. There are some advantages to having an iPad app. Shopping sites usually show one item at a time; apps can make a collage of items. You can bring objects to life on an iPad in a way that you can't do in a paper catalog, or on a static website on your computer.

In fact, many catalog and magazine publishers are already experimenting with iPad apps, adding interactivity and excitement to the reader's experience. Just in time for the holiday season, Walmart is launching a new iPad app.

Major innovations are coming. Retail spaces have been a fertile ground for change – brick-and-mortar stores, mail-order catalogs, websites and now the arrival of mobile. Start thinking now how you'll compete in this new environment.

Marshall Marcovitz is the founder and former CEO of the Chef's Catalog, a leading Internet shopping site. Currently, he is a lecturer, university professor and marketing consultant. In each issue of The Gourmet Retailer, Marcovitz offers opinions and lessons in all things Web-related, from social networking to marketing.