The Marriage of Mobile and Multichannel Marketing

It’s a fact that smartphones are not yet ubiquitous. Most consumers still use “feature phones,” which allow text messages to be sent and received and might offer limited Internet access within the carrier’s “walled garden.” Mobile applications, email and the Web are the domain of the few who can afford devices supporting these additional mobile technologies.

It’s a growing audience, but for marketers thinking about reach, there will be a trade-off, real or perceived, when developing marketing strategies that target smartphone-toting consumers.

In addition, consumers who research, browse, and buy through multiple channels are among a business’s most valuable. Studies of retail buyers have shown these consumers buy more, and more frequently, than their single-channel counterparts. A July 2010 RSR Research paper cites as much, with more retailers than not claiming greater profits from their cross-channel customers. Buyers have many options to transact business, from visiting a storefront to going online and, increasingly, using a mobile device.

When you consider that smartphone demographics tend to slant toward the more affluent, and the multichannel buyer spends more than others, you can see why marketing investments in digital channels are forecast to greatly outpace traditional media, according to Forrester Research. By digital channels, I am referring to social, mobile, and email—yes, email. Among email users, this group is increasingly employing their mobile phones, as opposed to a desktop or laptop, to send and receive email. All signs point to the mobile device as the way marketers can reach consumers.

Mobile as Platform

Reaching customers with the most money to spend in the timeliest, relevant and often location-centric fashion has become the marketer’s goal, and a smartphone is becoming the platform for making it happen. Mobile is so often viewed as a standalone channel when, in fact, it is a platform offering a gateway to many channels. Text messaging, mobile email, the mobile Web, applications, and social media all are finding homes on consumer handsets, collectively representing a challenge and opportunity for marketers.

The challenge is distinct from the one posed by multichannel marketing, which arose once businesses could serve customers through different channels, each requiring unique marketing tactics. The opportunity is instead now to craft intelligent ways of marketing across channels in consideration of consumer preferences. The timing of marketing messages and the place in time where these messages are received are becoming just as important as targeting the right message to the right customer. The Cross Channel Revolution is on, and you can be sure any technology company that remotely touches a marketing buyer will be touting some level of cross-channel support by the end of the year.

Channel Preference and Permission

The beauty of technology-enabled cross-channel marketing is that is accounts for all consumers, not just those with the latest iPhone. Customer communication preferences are at the heart of cross-channel marketing. It isn’t about any one approach, like email or text messaging; rather, it’s about the way a consumer wants to participate in a digital business relationship.

This relationship is sealed via consumer permission, or “opting in.” With both a customer’s channel preferences in hand, and their permission to be communicated with via those channels, response rates greatly exceed less considerate marketing approaches. This applies as much to text messaging programs as it does in allowing an application to identify your location and using that data to inform a more relevant interaction or offer.

It’s a Real Category

Forrester also had the foresight to recognize this new category of marketing, and give it a name: Cross Channel Campaign Management (CCCM). It seems quite a few email, CRM, and marketing services vendors have seized on this trend, extending their offerings to account for such emerging channels as mobile and social media like Twitter and Facebook. Notably, Forrester finds no single vendor accounts for all the requirements of CCCM. So buyers considering cross-channel marketing must align themselves with the vendor that most closely meets the problem head on.

To that end, Forrester and other experts will be surprised when buyers align themselves not with the email, CRM and marketing services stalwarts moving into cross channel but, rather, the mobile channel marketing specialists building intelligent ways of orchestrating promotions and offers across mobile, social, email and the Web—often informed with location. The winners and losers will be determined through execution, but one thing is certain: Cross-channel marketing is a difficult problem to solve.

About the Author

Gib Bassett works for Interactive Mediums, a SaaS provider of integrated mobile, email, and social media marketing solutions. He oversees the company's marketing efforts, including thought leadership, public relations, demand creation, and marketing communications, as well as directs the sales team. You can reach him at gib@signalhq.com or 609-799-6490, ext. 10.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

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For the rest of the October 2010 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

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