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10 rules for engaging mobile shoppers

David Apple
10 rules for engaging mobile shoppers David Apple

Nokia, a pioneer in mobile technology, recently announced it would abandon further development of an operating system for its phones and instead partner with Microsoft. Nokia's decision was seen as a tacit admission of failure by a company that once set the standard for cell phones -- indeed, a name that was as synonymous with cellular service as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android are today. Nokia, once an industry leader, didn't keep up with the ever-evolving market, and as a result, fell way behind, almost to the point of obsolescence -- a cautionary tale to established companies and retailers that fail to grasp the next big thing.

The bounds of traditional marketing have expanded, from newspaper inserts and point-of purchase displays, to magazine ads with QR codes and near-field communications-enabled devices that allow consumers to simply "tap" to redeem mobile coupons or pay for shopping orders. Already, 2011 is seen as a banner year for mobile marketing, with a projected 59 percent increase in spending this year. Companies that are quick to recognize the value of mobile campaigns are already ahead of the game.

Get connected. Want to meet up with the companies that are leading mobile into the future? Check out the exhibit hall at ad:tech San Francisco, April 11-13. Learn more.

The consumer is an ever-moving target that is never more than one click, ring, text, or tweet away from entering "shopper mode," and it is incumbent upon corporations and retailers -- especially the older, more established ones that are set in their ways -- to keep up with the ever-evolving mobile market.

It's understandable that many companies would look at mobile marketing with some trepidation -- again, it's a discipline that's still in its infancy. But there are an estimated 280 million users of smartphones, feature phones, and tablets out there -- and now more than ever, it's becoming harder to ignore the benefits of mobile.

Ultimately, the top two benefits of mobile marketing campaigns are that they're cost-effective -- often costing less to implement than comparable traditional advertising methods -- and unprecedented in their ability to return behavioral data.

Marketing execs should fully consider the following rules when executing mobile as part of an overall marketing plan:

  1. Make a full commitment. Make sure your mobile strategy is not just a one-off deal, such as slapping a QR code on a single product out of whole brand's line. Mobile marketing is not a trend; it's a tool. It requires a commitment from upper-level management that runs across brands, builds mobile into the overall path-to-purchase strategy, and fully spells out where it fits. Your plan must be comprehensive and fully thought-out -- and should encompass the whole of a brand's products.

  2. Don't treat it as a separate function. Relatively speaking, mobile is still a marketing afterthought -- something that gets tacked on at the end of the planning stage. But the shopping experience crosses so many different touchpoints and people in the organization -- from ads to promotions -- that as a tool, mobile is impossible to ignore. Easy tip: The smartphone is always in the customer's hands. It's the only part of the marketing process that's with the consumer the entire time.

  3. Don't expect it to differentiate your brand. Some aspect of mobile are easily conceived of as "buzzy," or "the hot new thing." But in the age of the internet and social media, what's new today is old mere hours later. Using QR codes to send consumers to enhanced-content websites won't score "cool" points with them. Mobile needs to provide value, says James Schuh, global digital marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark. Michael Ross, marketing VP for Meijer, notes that, "We're looking at mobile as a media channel. What we do with our brand is what will differentiate us."

  4. Focus on the audience, not the tool. This rule is pretty straightforward: Identify the shopper first, and then determine the tools and methods for reaching them. For instance, develop an app for people too busy to wait in a store while a prescription is filled -- a convenience already available at Walgreens. The primary goal is not to "wow" shoppers with tool itself, but with the solution it delivers.

  5. Assess your brand's role realistically. Ask yourself this: Does my brand actually need a mobile marketing component, such as an app? The answer won't always be "yes." The important thing is that you've carefully considered the possible role of mobile in your overall marketing campaign. While apps may be a necessary tool for manufacturers and retailers -- see the Walgreens example above -- the average shopper will have little need -- or interest -- for an app for every brand that she buys or retailer that she visits.

  6. Keep it simple. Any mobile campaign should seek to avoid obstacles on behalf of the consumer. Forcing customers to download an app or upload a photo keeps the mobile experience from being what it should be: fast and easy. Streamline what you can -- which is to say, streamline everything.

  7. Pull smartly, push gently. Just because mobile shoppers are always "available" doesn't mean they should be contacted relentlessly. Be thoughtful: Let the consumer decide when and how to use your mobile assets. A mobile device is just as personal as a purse is to a woman, or a wallet is to a man. Do you really want your brand to be in the position of cluttering up either?

  8. Collaborate. Partnerships between manufacturers and retailers are key toward developing strategies to attract mobile shoppers, and thus, driving sales. "Consumers look to retailers first for any type of shopping solutions," says Masha Sajdeh of Arc Worldwide, while her colleague, Molly Garris, Arc's manager of digital strategy, adds, "Retailers have limited content right now, and that's a gap that manufacturers can fill."

  9. Be very flexible. BlackBerry once set the standards for smartphones. Then the iPhone came along and knocked the popular device off of its perch. Earlier this month, it was revealed that phones running the Android operating system had become the most prevalent devices. Later this year, we'll see the newest versions of the iPhone, the iPad, and even more Android-based devices. In short, there's always a chance we'll see a new device that can launch and add a whole new marketing vehicle overnight. The better your company can anticipate these new tools, the better you'll be able to exploit them.

  10. Promote your efforts. Launching a QR campaign or a new shopping app into the market itself requires promotion -- something that is often overlooked when it comes to mobile advertising. Mobile tools can always stand to benefit from a good old TV spot or print ad. Showing your app in action via a 30-second spot helps get the word out quickly and efficiently -- and helps take the stigma out of trying new technology.

The mobile shopper has arrived, and these 10 common sense rules will provide a sound foundation on which to build your mobile marketing campaign. They're meant for companies large and small, and while we foresee newer companies easily adopting our rules, they can and should apply to the more established corporations in the business world as well.

It could be the difference between your company inventing the next iPhone -- or being the next Nokia.

David Apple is CMO of Augme Technologies.

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