How to Succeed at Mobile Marketing

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On one Monday last February, Chipotle Mexican Grill closed all of its locations across the country during the lunchtime rush to run a food safety training program for all 50,000 of its employees nationwide. The move, which came in response to an E. coli outbreak that originated at several of Chipotle’s restaurants, greatly inconvenienced a lot of customers. To make it up to them, the company turned to a mobile marketing solution from Vibes to offer consumers free burritos via an SMS campaign that reached 5.3 million Americans. Affected customers could text the word “raincheck” to 888-222 before 6 p.m. that same day to get in on the promotion.

For many consumers, this might have been just one of the 150 to 200 mobile moments they experience each day, according to a report from Forrester Research. The majority of these are micro-moments—in which consumers can identify information to be consumed or acted on immediately with just a quick glance at their smartphones.

Despite Chipotle’s success with the mobile marketing campaign—the company saw a 67 percent redemption rate—most businesses aren’t capitalizing on some of the most popular methods of connecting with consumers via mobile device, according to the Forrester report. Just 45 percent of business professionals incorporate SMS into their marketing efforts, with even fewer—25 percent—using push notifications, the research found.

The idea that the mobile device represents a single channel is a common misconception among marketers. Rather, mobile devices contain a variety of channels—with apps for email, messaging, and social media, among others—and consumers seamlessly transition between them.

“Any time you get into this linear thinking of ‘I need a mobile team’ or ‘I need an email team,’ you’re ignoring the way that human behavior actually is,” says Meghan Anderson, vice president of content at HubSpot, a provider of inbound marketing and sales platforms. “[When] we use our mobile devices…our experience is a tapestry of all of these different mechanisms for getting answers.”

According to Anderson, three basic types of notifications can reach mobile device users. The first is SMS, the text messages that have been standard on devices of all kinds for years. Second is the push notification, which is triggered by applications from which users have chosen to receive updates. Third is the email notification, which has long been the backbone of marketers’ mobile campaigns. Jessica Ekholm, a research director at Gartner, predicts that email marketing is still likely to be king over the next five years.

While email continues to be essential, marketers should also be taking advantage of the other channels consumers use on their mobile devices. Moreover, marketers need to shift their approach to engage with customers on the channels they are already using, presenting them with relevant information at the right moment.

“Marketers are very accustomed to a one-to-many way of thinking that comes from TV and from broadcast. They think about what their business needs are. They want to send out campaigns and do things like email and messaging based on what their schedule is. This is a fundamental way that mobile is very different, because mobile is about one-to-one engagement…and that means that on my time, when I have a need, [you can] send me a message,” says Julie Ask, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst serving e-business and channel strategy professionals.

But all too often, companies want to own their interactions with customers, Ask goes on to say. “They have this assumption that if a customer wants to do business with them, then they come to their store, their website, their app,” she states.

While this model might have been effective 10 or 20 years ago, Ask says that it “doesn’t work as well today, and it especially doesn’t work well on mobile, where consumers spend a lot of their time in just a handful of apps.”

For this reason, businesses should not build and launch apps simply for the sake of having them. Instead, apps need to serve a clear purpose and deliver value to customers.

Consumers aren’t the only ones to benefit from effective mobile apps. Ekholm notes that these kinds of apps can offer “specialized branded user experiences in a more controlled environment.”

Nevertheless, “marketers will need to reach out through new marketing avenues…to be part of the conversation where the customer is,” she argues.

Social media and messaging platforms are two such avenues. Both provide the opportunity for one-to-one interactions with customers, which means that companies need to take extra care that their communications provide something of value to consumers. Furthermore, they need to provide a consistent experience on all platforms and channels.

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