Mobile Musings: Retailers Using Mobile to Make BFFs
Now that we’re well into the second half of the year, many retailers are beginning to formulate their marketing plans for 2018. In particular, I’ve observed two approaches take shape that I think retailers can immediately act on that will have a major impact in retail marketing next year.
First, in a time of stagnating app usage, it’s critical that retailers implement more of a cross-channel mobile marketing approach to engage customers.
Second, the ability to use big data to improve customer experiences is finally close to becoming reality. However, brands must achieve the right balance in what data they request from customers and the enriched experiences they offer in return.
To best position themselves for 2018, retailers must develop full-scale strategies for implementing the approaches below.
Integrate Mobile Loyalty Programs as Cross-Channel Marketing Tools
One lesson learned is that while apps continue to be a centerpiece of many brands’ mobile strategies, they’ve reached a point where they often lead to inconsistent use and low engagement. As a result, cross-channel marketing has become more important than ever to effectively reach customers and shift behavior. This marketing approach takes advantage of the full range of mobile channels and draws on each of their strengths to complement the app rather than replace it.
Mobile loyalty programs hold promise as a cross-channel tool. Until recently, loyalty programs were built on the use of physical cards. However, now that the mobile device has become such an indispensable part of consumers’ lives, and mobile technology enables such a wide range of transactions, they can transfer loyalty program interactions directly to their phones.
In line with this, one channel I’ve seen emerge of late that offers new promise as a cross-channel marketing asset is the mobile wallet. Although they’re still in the early stages of adoption, mobile wallets integrate extremely well with loyalty programs. With their ability to provide simplified access to program information through just a swipe or touch, mobile wallets mean consumers no longer have to worry about bringing a separate card to earn and redeem loyalty rewards. In return for registering for a loyalty program and agreeing to share their mobile shopping data, customers can receive gifts, discounts and other rewards, while retailers enhance customers’ experiences and foster greater brand loyalty.
With this in mind, Syniverse recently completed a study to shed more light on mobile wallet’s potential. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. and 1,000 U.K. consumers, we found that nearly two-thirds of respondents said they’re aware of mobile wallet (it’s available on 90 percent of smartphones today). Of those that have a mobile wallet in the U.S., 53 percent use it at least once a week, and as many as 29 percent use it daily. In addition, more than half of those in the U.S. that initially didn’t know about mobile wallets are interested in using them.
The findings indicate a clear market opportunity for mobile wallet loyalty programs. The next step is to entice customers to take advantage of their benefits.
Ensure Customer Opt-In to Build Brand Trust
A second lesson learned concerns the importance of gaining customer opt-in to earn brand trust. The idea of using big data (e.g., location and interaction history) to personalize engagement has been a kind of Holy Grail for brands. However, the big question that many retailers have been cautious in addressing is to what extent are customers willing to share data in return for more customized services along their mobile journey.
Surprisingly, little research has been done on this. Syniverse conducted a study of 8,000 consumers in eight countries. Among the findings were that 75 percent said they don’t trust brands to take care of their data; 71 percent said they don’t trust operators to take care of their data; and 89 percent to 94 percent admitted to having at least some concern when sharing data with brands as well as with mobile operators.
One call to action we took away from this is the importance of helping brands put their customers in control of their privacy through opt-ins. In particular, it’s important to establish a rigorous opt-in process to verify that a customer wants to engage with your brand. This process generally confirms that the last agreement was related to a customer opting in to receive something, and when this agreement was made.
Implementing this type of process for ensuring opt-in approval is an important way to build trust and prevent customers from being surprised by any future communications. What’s more, there are several simple methods retailers can use to improve the likelihood of customers opting into a campaign, such as point-of-sale offers, in-app push notifications and social media posts.
Preparing for 2018
As retailers prepare for next year, it’s crucial to refine strategies for leveraging the power of mobile loyalty programs as cross-channel tools, and for carefully controlling customer opt-in to cultivate brand trust.
Mary Clark is the chief corporate relations officer and chief of staff at Syniverse, a mobile communications services provider.