Optimize Your Mobile Marketing Database

Mobile marketing offers a range of benefits, including the potential to achieve high response rates and drive increased consumer interaction and engagement. With mobile devices representing the convergence of multiple channels, they enable a consumer to interact with a company in a variety of ways—whether it be a phone call, a text message, an email, or chat.

Mobile marketing remains unique, as companies need to obtain "express consent" to deliver automated voice and text messages. Express consent provides the foundation of mobile marketing efforts and arms businesses with valuable customer preference information.

At first blush, express consent might seem daunting or fraught with legalese. Once legal considerations have been addressed, however, it provides a highly coveted asset: a compliant database of customers who welcome communications via their mobile phones. As 91 percent of U.S. mobile phone owners have their mobile devices within reach 24/7, according to Morgan Stanley, this provides unprecedented access to an already fragmented attention span.

With an accurate and targeted mobile database, you can manage your customer opt-ins, identify communications preferences, monitor behavior, and capture and manage preference shifts. Without it, you limit the potential return of your mobile marketing program. It will be most successful if you can build an opt-in mobile marketing database large enough to deliver a positive impact on your bottom line. When strategically developed and managed, your opt-in processes will ultimately increase relevancy and response rates while minimizing opt-outs.

To optimize your mobile marketing database, consider these best practices:

1. Offer a carrot. Consumers aren't quick to volunteer personal information unless they perceive value in doing so, or feel particularly positive about your brand. Consider this case study to understand how the ageless "carrot and stick" mentality can be used in 21st-century business. National apparel retailer Stage Stores grew its express consent database in conjunction with the back-to-school period, using a sweepstakes to solicit additional opt-ins. With high participation rates, the retailer successfully communicated with loyal and new customers. In addition to tying opt-in invitations to a sweepstakes or other promotion, consider attaching them to specific customer interactions that typically leave your customers feeling positive about your brand. Surveys and other customer-centric activities should not be ignored when planning opt-in campaigns. Using multiple communications channels will also increase response rates.

2. Honor customer communications preferences. Contact information like phone numbers and postal and email addresses is helpful, but you can gain a stronger advantage by gathering consumer communications preferences. How do your customers wish to be contacted, and how often? Which products or services are they interested in? Knowing how someone prefers to be contacted is paramount to turning a one-time shopper into a loyal customer. Once consumers have supplied their communications preferences, honor them with vigor. Communicating information they're not interested in or using nonpreferred channels will increase opt-out probability. Once a customer opts out of your mobile program, the chances of opting back in are slim.

3. For optimal results, nurture your database. The work doesn't stop after you have built the database. After gaining express consent, you need to maintain the relationship to prevent database attrition. The intense holiday shopping period lends itself to customer engagement. Consumers bring their mobile devices to brick-and-mortar locations to make informed shopping decisions and seek discounts and shopping codes. Heightened mobile activity and reliance provides retailers with a unique opportunity to create initiatives that build their mobile databases. But how do you keep them engaged and active in your mobile program after the opt-in? Build other seasonal campaigns to ensure year-round success. Basic programs include coupons, discounts, and sales reminders. As you gain insight into each customer's actual behavior—versus stated preferences—run targeted campaigns to leverage this valuable data. If a group of customers always shops the holiday Monday sales, build a program that targets this group and works to add to it.

4. Pay close attention and update. The mobile database is a living entity. Identifying your customers' preferences and channel response shifts will put you in a unique position to offer only what interests them while increasing response rates and your ROI. But be careful. As mentioned before, honoring customer preferences is critical, but noticing shifts in channel preferences is equally important. For example, the number of people who prefer to be contacted via text in 2012 is higher than it was in 2011. Thus, you must continually monitor the pulse of your customers and make note of their changing communications preferences and purchasing dynamics.

While these best practices ensure the health of your database, make sure that you monitor overall campaign progress as well. The metrics you initially set should be carefully monitored and updated as necessary. Are the results what you expected? If not, refine your plan and make adjustments. Watch for shifts in channel preferences among consumers contacted. Do their stated preferences match their behavior?

Knowledge of communications preferences allows you to generate targeted and personalized marketing campaigns while increasing your chances of getting through. The mobile channel offers brands the opportunity to build new customer relationships and to penetrate deeper into existing customer relationships.

Securing opt-in permission from your customers isn't necessarily difficult; it simply requires dedication, creativity, and consistent efforts. This investment can make your mobile marketing program grow exponentially. Are you ready to reap the rewards?

Debbie Braunert is the vice president of marketing at SoundBite Communications, where she leads product marketing and marketing communications strategies and initiatives. She has 20 years of high-tech marketing experience via roles at Altiris, Pedestal Software, eDial, and Inktomi.

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