The world is not ‘going mobile’, it has already gone!
There are more than 4.6 billion mobile phones in the world today; one each for 67% of the world’s population. This is about four times the number of desktop and laptop computers. More than 50% of internet search worldwide was conducted from mobile phones in 2010 (T.Ahonen Consulting). SMS Text messaging is the most widely used data application on the planet today – by far!
Most people simply will not go anywhere without their mobile phone. A lost credit card is reported within one day but a lost mobile phone is reported within 30 minutes (VISA 2009).
What does this mean for Australian businesses? Firstly it means understanding the implications and opportunities of the mobile phone and mobile marketing is critical now. For example any business that has a website needs to ensure it is compatible with mobile search. Approximately 10 – 15% of all internet searches in Australia today are done via mobile phones. Beyond that it means that a mobile phone communications strategy needs to be embraced and implemented, now.
Many Australian customers and clients are already using their mobile phones to find services, to search for products, to make purchases, and as a way of staying informed about their favourite places and brands.
The speed at which these changes have taken place, particularly the adoption of smart phones and mobile internet browsing in the last two years, has left many, many Australian businesses in its wake. There is a general understanding that the mobile phone is strategically important and presents new opportunities, but the question is: “What does it mean for me and how can I start using it to benefit my business?”
Mobile Marketing: Where to start?
The first thing to know about mobile marketing is to not think about it as marketing. A much better description is mobile engagement. This is not just semantics, it is important to think differently when considering how to incorporate the mobile phone into today’s communication strategy.
The word ‘communication’ suggests having a direct conversation with your customer. Marketing has traditionally followed the broadcast model: tell your message to as many people as possible and hope that it will be relevant to a few. That model is rapidly becoming less acceptable to many customers and certainly less effective in today’s crowded and diffused media environment.
The opportunity exists today via mobile systems to have a direct one-to-one relationship with every individual customer in a way that has never been possible before and at a cost that has never been possible before.
We all know that there are now more mobile phones in Australia than there are people. We know that no-one leaves home without taking their mobile phone and that it is seen as a personal and private ‘space’.
It is not necessary to ‘market’ to customers via their phone, by ‘engaging’ with them instead the results and rewards can be well beyond what can be achieved through any other media. It is important to remember that the customer has given permission to engage directly with them in their personal space and that must be respected.
Your customers have given you permission to contact them via their mobile phone because they want to hear from you. They want to know what is happening with your brand and products. They don’t want to be ‘sold to’ because they are already ‘sold’. They are loyal, engaged customers that want to be kept informed.
This goes to the heart of what is different about engaging with customers and clients via the mobile phone: you know that they already have a relationship with your business and that by giving you their mobile number they have said “I am interested and want to hear from you. I am trusting you.” If this is the case, and given that it is seven times easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one… it is time to start talking!
Most Australian business owners and marketing managers, when asked, say they want to start using mobile marketing, but many don’t know how or where to start.
The easiest way to ‘put a toe in the water’ is by using SMS. It is fast, easy, inexpensive, very effective and widely accepted. It is possible to stay in touch with a customer every month for less than $2 per year using SMS. That means putting your brand in their hand, and in their head, every month for just a few cents! If just one of those messages influences their behaviour once during the year then your payback will be very significant. The ROI from SMS engagement is shown to be well above any other form of marketing.
The primary use of the mobile phone is no longer for voice calls, it is for text messaging. In Australia we send, on average, five SMS messages per person every day. It is very widely used and accepted. SMS messages are quick, easy to ‘consume’, personal, immediate and not intrusive.
Most of us have by now experienced receiving an SMS appointment reminder or a reminder for a bill that needs to be paid. These are personal – they relate specifically to me – relevant and helpful and as such we are happy to receive them. Applying the same rules when thinking about mobile communications with your customers will ensure that SMS messages are welcomed and seen as delivering improved customer service.
A simple “Thanks for purchasing from us yesterday. If you have any questions about your purchase please call us on…” can have a powerful impact on your customers: increasing their loyalty, repeat purchase and recommendation to others. Don’t imagine that you must type this out each time on your phone and send it manually; there are systems available today that will do this automatically.
Every SMS message can also include an active link to a mobile website. More than 60% of phones in Australia today are internet enabled and approximately 10-15% of internet searches are today from mobile phones, up from near zero a couple of years ago. Within another 1 – 2 years these numbers will have again grown exponentially.
The simple SMS message now becomes the starting point for much broader and deeper customer engagement. The mobile site can include information about new products, promotions, competitions, or contain photos and videos. Alternatively you can ask for feedback, request a survey to be completed, or provide contact details and a map showing your location.
Mobile internet is not used in the same way as desktop internet. Over 50% of mobile search today is used by people wanting to either call or locate a business they already know: they are not doing ‘research’, they just want to find you. So the mobile site needs to have contact details and ‘Click to Call’ and ‘Click to Find’ buttons prominently displayed.
This also means that the best way to get visitors to come back regularly to a mobile website to see updated information is by sending them a regular SMS with a link to the site.
Things to watch
One of the most often asked questions regarding Mobile Marketing is: “How frequently should I SMS my customers?” The correct answer is of course: “It depends”. Communicating too frequently or not frequently enough can both be bad.
For some businesses sending a message every week is OK. If there is something new to say each week then customers will not mind hearing about it. The overarching principal still applies that all messages must be relevant, helpful, timely and engaging.
On the other hand too infrequent communication can look like the relationship is not important, that messages are only sent ‘when you want something’, for example when another Sale is on. For many businesses a message once per month is well accepted and appreciated by customers.
The first time a business uses mobile marketing it is very important for their customers to know that they are in control of what arrives on their personal mobile phone. Tell them how to opt-out. Be clear that receiving the messages is not costing any money and they can easily opt-out of receiving them at any time. This puts your customer in the driver’s seat and they are more likely to stay happily ‘opted-in’.
It is also a requirement under the Australian SPAM legislation that people must have opted-in to receive communications from a business and be able to easily opt-out of any electronic communications. If you use one of the SMS Marketing service providers it is important to check that they are SPAM Act compliant in all areas.
When to start
There is no question that engaging with your customers more often is a great thing to do and that using the mobile phone is a great way to do it. It is personal, cost effective and widely accepted. It improves customer service, loyalty, repeat sales and the bottom line.
So, whether we call it mobile marketing or mobile engagement one thing is certain: every business should consider the mobile phone as an important part of their communication strategy in 2011 – because the world is not going mobile… it’s already gone.