A quick Google search of "customer engagement" will net you a whole slew of articles, blog posts, research papers, and more, all offering insights into how to use mobile technology to meet the ever-changing expectations of connected consumers.

Though marketers continue to look for new ways to connect with local customers through mobile, many miss an important opportunity to turn mobile connectivity into a marketing tool.

This concept is especially important for multi-location brands. Their success depends on the ability of individual store locations to adapt to the real-time needs and wants of their customers and markets. Marketing for those organizations is typically still done from a centralized corporate location with a dedicated team. This top-down structure dictates what marketing should look like, which must then be translated and applied to each individual store location.

However, in an environment where effective customer engagement exists in specific moments rather than generic, broadly defined touchpoints, this traditional structure can often impede the most critical of marketing efforts—those happening "here and now" at the local level.

Here are three ways that "here and now" marketing is affecting customer engagement and how mobile tools can help brands deliver.

1. The influence of online reviews is huge

A total of 99% of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced in some capacity by online reviews, and 88% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

If the goal of marketing is to drive customers to the store and make a purchase, then the value of timeliness and context (as it relates to online review response) cannot be overstated.

Businesses need to pay attention to, and actively engage with, consumers on review sites, especially if there are complaints. That is virtually impossible to do at the corporate level with any amount of relevant personalization.

Having mobile access to review platforms allows store managers and employees to respond in a personal way with (near) real-time context, which greatly increases the value of engagement when it matters most.

2. Brand image never sleeps

A brand's retail locations may define specific operating hours, but the Internet is running 24/7 and many brands are still learning how to navigate after-hours customer engagement.

The reality is that connected consumers aren't going to wait until a store location opens before they decide to post a review about their last experience.

Moreover, incorrect or misleading store information isn't going to fix itself. In the time it takes for a corporate marketing team to be notified and complete the internal processes required to make it right, the individual store location has already lost valuable time and engagement points.

Nobody is more aware than the store managers and employees about how certain aspects of their stores are reflected digitally. Being able to monitor and ensure that basic information (name, address, hours of operation, etc.) is accurate and up to date is integral to remaining competitive.

Providing store-level employees with mobile access to key management capabilities empowers them to affect the performance of their brand more quickly and accurately—saving time and ensuring that the path to customer engagement remains free of obstacles.

3. Local is a competitive advantage

Despite the rise of mobile and the extended reach such technology provides, the increasing focus of consumers and brands alike is local. Some 85% of consumers prefer the in-store buying experience to online. National brands with multiple locations must meet maintain a consistent national online presence while they highlight the nuances of the local buying experience.

The advantage in this endeavor is that every store location is unique—even for the largest national brand.

Local flavor is what helps brands differentiate themselves by location. Store photos, event announcements, special products, or services—all those elements create an individual personality for each store that helps establish a personal connection to their customers. By providing a way for local managers and employees to market their specific attributes across social platforms in real time, brands can reinforce this connection and make themselves special to the communities they serve.

Effective customer engagement require brands to be truly localized in their strategy and demands recognition of the "here and now" mindset consumers have come to expect—one that's difficult to deliver in an authentic way at the national corporate level.

* * *

The focus in marketing must shift from consumer adoption to the opportunities mobile provides as a marketing tool. After all, the most obvious way to keep up with mobile consumers is to make marketers mobile, too.

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Why Marketers Need to Master the 'Here and Now' of Mobile Customer Engagement

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image of Damian Rollison

Damian Rollison is director of Product at Brandify, a company specializing in local marketing for national brands.

LinkedIn: Damian Rollinson