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The rise of the mobilised consumer

Monday, 12 December 2011 | By Matty Soccio
The alarm on your phone goes off in the morning. You pick it up and take it to the kitchen, over breakfast check your emails for anything important, then browse the news.


On the train into work, you push for your best score on Angry Birds before switching to your phone’s music playlist to get you into the office.


While at work, you check the phone automatically for text messages or Tweetdeck updates.


On the way home your music is interrupted by - shock horror - a phone call. More browsing occurs throughout the evening before you plug it into charge.


Welcome to a consumer’s life with their smartphone. Mobile is one of the most personal media devices that consumers interact with today, which is what makes it so incredibly difficult as a marketing tool to get right.


Recent research by Forrester shows that just 8% of Australian adults do not have a mobile phone, but small businesses are failing to adequately exploit this. For example, a mere 9% of Australians regularly receive coupons or promotions on their mobile phones, and just 14% regularly vote with their mobiles or enter a contest via SMS.


Separate figures suggest that mobile is also quickly becoming an essential consumer tool when making purchasing decisions, with Google predicting that a third of location and trading hours enquiries this Christmas will come via a handset.


Meanwhile, according to eBay, nearly four in ten who research a product do so while using their mobile, while 44% who research a product using their mobile still typically purchase in-store.


Further, 15% of those that have used their smartphone to buy a product have been standing in a store but purchased it online from a different retailer via their smartphone.


Even more telling is that almost half of smartphone users in the research say that they would use their mobile to research this year’s Christmas presents.


So how can start-ups cash in on this smartphone retail surge?


Joe Barber, founder and chairman of mobile web adaptation software Modapt, says that while consumers are definitely keen to buy on mobile, getting them over the line is the difficult part.


“(With mobile) you get an overall lower viewership but you get a much higher success rate,” he says.


“Something interesting we’ve seen with our client JeansWest is that they get a far lower bounce off rate on mobile (a “bounce off” is someone hitting a homepage and then leaving straight away) – a very low bounce off rate from 25% to about 7% - and the amount of time spent on the site is three times that spent on the web… and on average they visit about 15 pages instead of three.”


Old-school emails, rather than apps, are leading the charge when it comes to conversing with consumers via mobile. This is mainly because the latter isn’t hinged on forming long-term relationships.


Getting consumers to ‘deep link’ new updates in their apps to communicate with you is a painful endeavour.



Oliver Weidlich, director of design and innovation at Mobile Experience and co-founder of Mobile Mondays in Sydney, indicates that if you’re thinking of going down the mobile marketing route, you need to ask yourself some serious questions.


“There’s a couple of things you need to take into consideration. Do you know who your mobile audience is going to be and what sort of devices to they have?” he asks.


“What are you trying to achieve? Are you aiming for a rich and engaging event experience or are you just trying to provide information about your business and you want to have a presence on mobile web?”


“Do you have a ‘responsive design’ website, one that caters to web, tablet and mobile, and is the content provided in an appropriate way for each of those platforms?”


“The question of ‘need’ for an app comes down to how integrated you need to be with that particular device’s hardware. Back in the day, website hardware didn’t need GPS, but coming up is Near Field Communication location technology which does require a native app. If you’re going to use payments and things like that so consumers can interact with a small businesses loyally, and you want to leverage NFC, then you’re going to require a native app.”


While apps have their place in the mobile world, their accessibility is limited to those business owners wanting to have an information-led relationship with their clients.


As Barber points out, apps are notoriously difficult to integrate into your existing web real estate, where you forego money spent on a great website to have an app that consumers only access when they want – no prompting available.


“One of our clients, HometownLocator.com in the US, is a good example – they have about a million web pages all about the demographics and local information about the people that live in every town, county city state in the US with all their census-like data and all of the local business,” he says.


“They couldn’t use an app, because they’re ‘deep-linked’ out of Google and get most of their traffic (something like 15,000 search results a day) through Google searches.”


“An app for that just won’t work – how do you drive someone to deep-link into an app when you don’t know what device they’re using?”


“They were facing a bill of 200k or 300k to develop a series of apps and finding out where to direct their marketing, but instead they spent a fraction of that to completely mobilise their existing site.”


But there is a caveat. Social networking apps are equally as useful to CRM as email blasts, according to Max Bonpain, head of marketing of telecoms at Samsung.


“In Australia you’ve got roughly half the population using smartphones. Even the video phones have WAP and internet access; convenient internet access that lets you do mobile commerce. But at the end of the day the most popular use for them is social networks,” he says.


Bonpain points to apps that allow consumer engagement with not just one business but those that add themselves to group apps, leveraging their location to attract customers but share the cost with other SMEs.


“It would suit the group apps, like Cupstart.com for coffee shops, where you register your details and the coffee shops you like to go to, you put some money on that, and when you want a coffee you put in the one that you want and when you arrive there it is already paid and they have it ready for you,” he says


“This isn’t for one coffee shop – any café can join. So in terms of café SMEs, this is good for them because they would not have the money to create this for themselves.”


App or web, you and your customers are on mobile, and if you fail to speak to them on this platform, it’s increasingly likely that your competitors will.


Top tips on getting mobile:


  • Is your business website mobile-friendly? Test the ability for consumers to find and interact with you via mobile.
  • Don’t just create an app, unless you know that your consumer will use it regularly.
  • Leverage the tools you already have – if you have a brilliant website that caters for all your customers’ needs, mobilise it.
  • There are lots of mobiles out there. Consider the platforms that your mobile efforts are geared towards.
  • Check the rules: there are regulations that need to be adhered to. Go to www.aimia.com.au to find out more.