Are You Ready for the Smartphone Marketing Revolution?

It wasn’t long ago that when we talked mobile, we were discussing basic devices that could do little more than make phone calls. Now, mobile is so much more than a phone. It’s an experience. Consumers use their phone to browse the internet, send emails, engage on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, check-in on Foursquare, shop, find coupons and get directions. And the list goes on.

As marketers, it’s important to take a step back and look at all of the ways we can engage consumers in real time with mobile – from texting and calling, to apps and push notifications, to social media and QR codes.

Calling, texting
You may ask, ‘Do people actually use their smartphones to make phone calls?’ Absolutely. In fact, according to the results of our 2011 Mobile Dependence Day study, calling is the most common smartphone use. But that doesn’t mean you should be calling them. It’s important to know your audiences’ preference, but also, to take into account how those preferences vary between communication with brands and communication with friends.

Text messaging continues to grow as a communications tool with friends and brands. We’ve found that 68 per cent of online consumers text daily, and there are times when SMS becomes the preferred communication channel for consumers interacting with brands. 25 per cent of consumers prefer to receive travel alerts and 15 per cent prefer to receive financial alerts via SMS over any other channel. What does that mean for marketers? If you’re sending timely or urgent messages, SMS may be the preferred delivery method of your consumers.

Checking email and web browsing has become the norm for smartphone users. According to our 2012 Channel Preference Study, more than half of consumers use their smartphones to check email several times per day, while 29 per cent of consumers report they check email “constantly throughout the day”. That stat may make you want to overhaul all of your email campaigns into mobile-friendly email campaigns. But first, get to know your audience. Are they checking email on their phones? If so, start to think about the content of your message, not necessarily the device used to view the message. Realistically, an email that is mobile-friendly will also be viewable on a desktop. Now it’s time to start creating usable campaigns for both mobile and desktop experiences.

What about mobile sites? Over half of smartphone owners say they use their smartphone to browse the internet at least once per day. You want your customer to have a great experience on your website but if they don’t, they may just move to your competitor’s site. So you should ensure that your website is mobile-optimized. If people are visiting your site on a mobile device, shouldn’t you make sure they get a good experience?

Social media

A study from ABI research found that 73 per cent of mobile device users in the US use their phones to visit social networking sites daily, and in some cases, more than once a day. Are you using Facebook and Twitter as a mobile messaging medium? You should be. But don’t get ahead of yourself. Start by developing a social media strategy and then look at cross-channel promotions. It’s important to consider how your social messages are perceived by consumers who receive the message via mobile. Try testing a few campaigns on Facebook and Twitter to get an idea of how your Fans and Followers engage. Then, make it mobile-friendly. 
Looking to engage your audience with QR codes? QR campaigns work best when the code leads to a mobile coupon, eTicket or something that makes a transaction process quicker for a consumer. QR codes integrate well with mobile because the code can be sent directly via SMS, and with a simple click, the QR code populates the screen of your consumer’s mobile device.

Push notifications
Since the launch of Apple’s App store in July 2008, consumers have downloaded 25bn mobile apps to their iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. Another 10bn apps have been downloaded from the Android app store by consumers running the Android operating system.

When a consumer downloads your application, it opens up new possibilities for engagement, including push notifications. The allure of push notifications is that they require the user to take immediate action by opening the app; however, poorly executed push messages have the potential to alienate users. As consumers begin to adopt push notifications as a communication channel, it’s important to take their preferences into account. Plus, you can always seek customer email opt-ins during the initial app registration, so you have a way to communicate with your app users.

According to BI, smartphones are set to overtake feature phones in 2012. Which means marketers must be ready to take on the smartphone’s five common functions- calling, texting, email, internet and social media. Are you ready?

R. J. Taylor is senior director of mobile product marketing at ExactTarget