Providing an enriched user experience in order to engage consumers over the long term: this is the essential component of an effective mobile marketing strategy, argues Forrester Research.
Consumers in the United States devote 80% of the total time they spend on their Android or iOS mobile devices to mobile apps, and spend just 20% of online time browsing the Internet. Given this statistic, many marketing managers thought the key to success would be to simply develop an app along the lines of their website. However, if they wish to involve consumers and engage them over the long term, brands need to go much further, argues independent technology and market research company Forrester Research, which has just published two reports outlining its view of mobile marketing trends for the current year: ‘Predictions 2015: Most Brands Will Underinvest In Mobile’; and ‘Predictions 2015: Most Firms Will Underinvest In Mobile eBusiness’. In this era of digital transformation, many companies are now starting to appoint in-house ‘innovation champions’, points out Paul Amsellem, CEO of French public mobile advertising and marketing company Mobile Network Group. However, they are mostly feeling their way forward tentatively, testing different models in a bid to make the digital consumer central to their marketing thrust and there are lots of pitfalls along the road. Obviously we can point to such success stories as the Starbucks app, which is used by millions of customers every week, but today all too many brands are still struggling to get to grips with the codes of mobile usage and apply them effectively.
Understanding how mobile works
Starbucks has definitely succeeded with its app in making the customer relationship central to its marketing effort. Nike has managed the same trick with its Nike+ Training Club app for women. This app enables the iconic sports gear supplier not only to boost its brand image but also to garner data which can then be used at a later stage in the development of products, thus making it more likely that the new product will meet consumer needs more closely. Apps which provide real opportunities to engage the consumer are nevertheless few and far between. Forrester could name just ten that had really managed to do this – including Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and Whatsapp – out of the hundred or so it examined for the report. So just what is the recipe for success? “Innovation in terms of content, additional services, and an interface which is different from what can already be found on the web,” suggests Paul Amsellem. There is no point in building an app that merely replicates what is already being done on the website, or is just a sort of website catalogue, he argues. You need to innovate both as regards content and the services on offer otherwise your app might well be downloaded many times but nevertheless have very few regular users. Consumers in the US and UK use on average 24 apps a month but spend 80% of their time on just five of them, mainly social network, video and map apps. This telling statistic should lead firms to update some of their basic assumptions.
Piggy-backing on star applications
One interesting phenomenon is that apps which consumers use very frequently are now starting to become marketing platforms open to other brands. In the United States for instance you can summon an Uber car through Google Maps and in France you can go directly from the TripAdvisor app to book a table in a restaurant using the lafourchette app. In this way, brands can piggy-back on the high traffic flows created by consumers’ favourite apps and provide users with a far richer experience by integrating their own services directly into these ‘star’ apps. However, underlines Paul Amsellem, companies should also carefully examine their own strategy. “Is it really useful for L’Oréal or Renault to have an app that users look at several times a day?” Each brand has its own business model and its own target audience. It might well be essential for an instant messaging app or for an Uber-type mobile pure player to be looked at on a very regular basis, but this is not necessarily the case for those brands whose mobile interface constitutes a move into new territory, independent of their original business model.
Thomas Husson, Paris-based vice president and principal analyst of the Marketing and Strategy group at Forrester Research, who co-authored the reports, stresses that firms should be rethinking their mobile strategies from the angle of the user experience. ‘Simple’, ‘fast’ and ‘direct’ are the watchwords for apps. One way of responding to this need could be to create a number of different apps, each covering one of the company’s fields of activity. Facebook – whose Messenger app is dedicated entirely to instant messaging – is a good illustration of this approach. In the same vein, ‘deep-linking’, which streamlines the way we browse through different apps and enables indexing of content – as used in advertising retargeting – is the sort of technology that will be increasingly used in 2015, predicts Forrester. With this technology a brand can avoid asking users needlessly to download an app if they already have it, and can take the customer through to special links, such as a previously abandoned shopping basket. The social network and Internet giants are already experts in this area of mobile technology and marketers at other types of firms ought to be following suit, argue the Forrester experts.