Pushing the Envelope
Even in the last days of 1999, as we waited anxiously to see if the Millennium Bug would indeed bring civilisation crashing down, we could see the power of SMS as a new medium for consumer and customer engagement. Its unique ability to engage with the consumer at a propitious moment chosen by an organisation and to bring personalised relevance and value in exchange for the consumer’s instant attention, filled me with awe.
In the last decade and more, a global industry has been built on this capability; despite the emergence of WAP and then of the mobile internet, SMS is still the medium driving the bulk of mobile marketing and service worldwide, and continues to grow rapidly.
The smartphone, powered by high resolution touch screens, fast processors and HSDPA+ speeds, then transformed the mobile channel. By June 2012, consumers had downloaded 30bn apps from the Apple App Store, and more than 15bn from Google Play. For the last five years, organisations have been thrilled with the way apps could help them engage with consumers. Vast sums have been spent on developing and promoting apps. The number of downloads has been a badge of pride for agencies and their clients.
Yet until now, there has been a remarkable failure to combine the lessons learned from these two great mobile traditions into a winning strategy. The immediacy of SMS and the rich interactions of apps have not been synthesised into a new model of mobile engagement.
The question is, when the consumer hops off your app, has your conversation with them ended? The data says that all too often, it has. Research from Localytics suggests that over a quarter of users only use an app once after downloading it. 65 per cent of consumers don’t use an app after the first month. Apps are useful, but they don’t engage properly.
The lesson learned from SMS is that the right information, delivered at the right time to the right people, deserves to be presented and demands to be heard. Such information earns the organisation the right to re-engage the consumer in conversation; to rekindle the relationship. So how do organisations go about achieving this?
The solution has several parts. Firstly, we need to attract consumers’ attention, even when the app is closed. SMS can do this perfectly, and so can Push Notifications. Push is a new feature of each of the great mobile operating systems, which enables a notification to make contact with the consumer in a polite manner, telling them that something interesting has happened – a new upgrade is available, new content has been published, there’s a personal message for them, or there is a new offer or voucher available. The invitation is to open the app.
Once opened, driven by curiosity, it is vital that there is something rich and interesting there - right away, an immediate serotonin reward for their response. That’s what works. What doesn’t work is a link, a loading circle and a wait. So the app must be pre-charged with the new content – the video, image or document - loaded in the background before the consumer opens the app. Modern smartphones can be pre-charged this way.
Most importantly, the right engagements must be targeted at the right customers, and we must avoid irrelevant, impolite, incessant interruption. To do this, the context of the consumer is our searchlight. Today, the most powerful knowledge available is the consumer’s location, right now. Geo-fenced push, as it is known, is a new and very powerful way to send pushes only to those consumers who are within a specified geographic area – within a few hundred metres of a shop, for example.
Another key piece of context is how consumers have behaved in the past – their movements, their responses to previous engagement attempts and their clickthrough behaviour. By using this information, consumers can be automatically assigned to fluid and changing segment groups, designated to receive specific messages.
Rules of engagement
The mobile channel is a voyage of discovery, in which marketers must learn from experience the unwritten rules of engagement, and the guidelines for what works and what does not. To learn, it’s essential to experiment and immediately see the results. Rapid, accurate feedback is necessary to illuminate the true metrics of each engagement – what proportion of targets responded to each campaign; where they were; how long they took to act. Smartphones offer unprecedented levels of visibility into these parameters.
More than a decade after some saw the end of civilisation, and many of us foresaw the beginning of the mobile marketing revolution, we are once again on the threshold of a new era of mobile engagement, enabled by smartphone capabilities. Building on both the latest technology, and on a decade of experience, it will be even more exciting, enriching and useful to the consumer.
Andrew Bud is co-founder of mBlox