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How to Enhance Mobile Marketing With Personalization

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Tactics for enhancing a mobile marketing strategy with personalization
  • Specific examples demonstrating ways to make mobile experiences more personal

Everyone today understands mobile marketing's potential to produce business success. Mobile drives 20% of all e-commerce sales, and sales via mobile are projected to increase from $139 billion in 2012 to more than $400 billion in 2015.

One vital step toward capturing this potential is personalizing the mobile experience for customers. Mobile is personal, with every device feature, sound, and function customizable. Any marketer will acknowledge the demise of "spray and pray," replaced by data-focused segmentation and targeting. However, though 43% of companies deliver a personalized experience on desktop computers, only 13% do on mobile.

Fortunately, there are a few easy-to-implement tactics to personalize mobile for customers. Understanding each will help businesses monetize mobile more effectively.

1. Drive opt-ins

Perhaps this is obvious, but getting an opt-in opens up infinite possibilities for personalization. Be bold when encouraging customers to sign in on the mobile Web, submit their phone number to receive mobile alerts, or authorize push notifications when downloading apps. Consider Stuart Weitzman's homepage:

Whereas the page's top offers New Arrivals and Trends, a quick scroll reveals a gateway asking visitors to put on a nametag before entering. Moreover, on the desktop Web, Stuart Weitzman uses website-takeover popups for returning visitors, urging them to submit their email and/or mobile number to receive an optimal brand experience.

These practices demonstrate how companies can encourage consumer opt-ins without simultaneously alienating new visitors still in exploration mode. Overall, do not passively expect subscriptions to roll in. Think of mobile as if it were a real-life relationship. Be casual up front, but eventually you need to "have the talk" and actively drive signups.

For opted-in customers, provide custom features such as configurable navigation and targeted product recommendations. If consumers see demonstrable value in subscription programs, they not only will continue using mobile products but also will share the benefits with others.

2. Communicate across channels

Effective mobile marketers take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web, social, and Passbook. Here's one example from Electronic Arts:

With the first message, subscribers to EA's SMS list can access a mobile Web page and download a Real Racing 3 app. The second opens a landing page where gamers can watch a mobile video promoting the game Battlefield 4.

Value comes behind the scenes, as EA can learn tons of useful information from these mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Those who view the mobile video mark themselves as high-value targets for the upcoming product release. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and iteration, so commit to integrating what makes sense over the short, medium, and long terms instead of trying to do everything simultaneously.

3. Location-enable

Pretty simple really. Mobile devices go everywhere. Take advantage of how that information can create personalized experiences. One example:

Starbucks uses a mobile Web store locator that asks customers to reveal their location, which then populates a map with nearby stores. Due to the nature of the information requested, consumers likely will find this data popup innocuous.

On SMS, marketers can request that customers share their ZIP code, whereas app and Passbook marketers can use location triggers for push messages. Remember, as long as customers see value in the call to action, requesting location information won't come off as pushy.

For those stuck on how to use location, start with four straightforward applications: time, weather, calendar, and geography. Tactics like "flash sale before 5PM," "Beat the chilly weather with this offer," "Special deal for summer," or "good morning" messages segmented by time zone will establish a stronger consumer/brand connection.

4. Provide choice

Choosing between options lets customers personalize through customization. ESPN's ScoreCenter app is a good example:

Here, customers can select the types of alerts they want to receive. Even though the alerts go to a general audience, the customers' input lets them create their own experience.

Even without an opt-in, brands still have the ability to implement choice-focused tactics using A/B Testing. Applicable to anything mobile—whether landing pages for inbound traffic, mobile message blasts, or individual app pages—the process is straightforward: Track success metrics for two alternatives, choose the best, compare that with a third alternative, then a fourth, and so on. Sure, A/B testing does not personalize content at the individual level, but generally it makes mobile media more engaging for customers.

5. View mobile through a data lens

When most marketers approach mobile, they gravitate toward viewing the technology as a communication channel. Savvy marketers understand that mobile produces much more value as a data channel. Consider this SMS campaign from Uber:

Yes, all these messages are communication between consumer and brand. However, between the lines the exchange gives Uber a chance to understand crucial information. Whether it's customer response time, average number of driver stars in a given location, or average time between the 5 Minutes and Arrive messages, each mobile interaction presents an opportunity to add value with data.

One specific example of Uber's data strategy is the use of customer first name. This tactic, dynamic field insertion, personalizes mobile interaction to increase engagement. Other data tactics include analysis of all on-site behavior to provide better content or "badging," where brands reward customer activity with prizes or other incentives.

* * *

Above all, remember that trying to implement all the above personalization tactics simultaneously will be overwhelming. Personalization is a crawl-walk-run endeavor. Bite off each tactic in chewable chunks, as each step forward will increase overall momentum.

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Kane Russell is vice-president of marketing at Waterfall Mobile. Its technology helps companies build mobile marketing campaigns that customers love.

LinkedIn: Kane Russell

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  • by ToddK Tue Nov 5, 2013 via web

    We have done some experiments with the use of personalized QR codes which marry to a personalized mobile website experience. While QR codes may still prove to have a ceiling for adoption, our approach was to build a database of characteristics about those in our (potential) customer list. The QR code is scanned by the target/recipient, the database provides the personalized content, including calling the user by name, and presents information suitable or more appropriate for the user. Refining the experience can occur through questions asked during the encounter with the personalized mobile website.

    Our success with this has prompted the development of platform/foundation for use. More information about this can be found at

  • by Adella @ Wishpond Thu Nov 7, 2013 via web

    Hi Kane. Great article! I would like to highlight “exclusivity” for personalized mobile marketing. As ToddK mentioned about a QR code, it's a great tool to utilize mobile-exclusive deals. For example, Emart’s created a shadow QR code that only became visible when the sun was at the correct angle. This campaign gave access to special offers or coupons. Through this campaign, Emart offered 12,000 coupons, membership increased 58% and sales increased 25% during lunchtime. What are your thoughts on it?

  • by João Soares Tue May 12, 2015 via web

    Nice description on how to adopt personalization on a broader perspective. I would add another use case, since so many mobile apps include some sort of advertising and that sometimes drives users away it is possible to test several ad placement techniques or even turn them on or off for particular user segments. One thing I'm used to see is app publishers turning off ads for people that have not yet reached a particular usage level and turning it on after users are already engaged with the app content.

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