These days it is rare to find someone who doesn't rely on a smartphone or some kind of handheld device and a slew of mobile apps to stay productive at work, on the road or even in their home. There are so many mobile electronic gadgets on the market, including the popular iPhone, Palm Pre, BlackBerry Bold, iPad and Android tablet.
Let's face it. Mobile devices have drastically shifted the online landscape to the point that in 2010 more than 50 percent of all Internet access was being done via handhelds of some sort. About 45 percent of mobile owners are using their devices to download social networking apps. In fact, 35 percent of Android and iPhone owners in the U.S. use apps such as Facebook before getting out of bed, according to a recent survey conducted by telecommunications equipment vendor Ericsson.
What's more, reports by Forrester Research show that heavy app users are also heavy mobile Web users. The majority of North American consumers who have interacted with a brand using a mobile device have employed a combination of SMS, apps and browsers. Therefore, it should not be an "either or" decision for companies looking to develop mobile solutions, say Forrester market analysts.
Mobile is a booming industry but it is still also considered uncharted waters for many businesses looking to expand brand awareness. What most companies call their mobile strategy really just amounts to a collection of mobile tactics, according to Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, a research advisory firm based in San Mateo, Calif. In a blog post based on his presentation at the Mobile Marketing Strategies Summit in San Francisco, Owyang argues that companies should build a strategy based on the entire customer experience and not just based on technologies on hand or just on features and functions. This isn't about guesswork. He says companies should evaluate how their customers are actually using mobile technologies across their entire customer lifecycle.
If integrating a mobile strategy is on your company's radar, then these tips will help to get you going. Initiation of a mobile strategy should always begin with thinking about the basics: who, what, why and how. Start by asking yourself the following questions.
Who are your customers and who are you trying to reach? Who will want to engage with your mobile content? What tasks and needs does your audience have? Why do your customers need information from you in a timely manner? Why do you need to create content to be viewed both in standard web browsers and on mobile devices? How will your target audience access your mobile content (which type of handheld device)? How will they use your content in their daily lives? How will you make your mobile content sticky and engaging?
A solid mobile strategy will include several ways to connect with consumers via their mobile devices. Text or SMS/MMS, Bluetooth messaging, marketing campaigns, mobile coupons and geo-location are all very different and provide assets that if used correctly will cover your basic mobile ecosystem, says Jamie Turner, author of How To Make Money With Social Media. There are primary ways in which companies and brands are using mobile media. Here are some key approaches.
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How to Create a Mobile Strategy for Your Business: Mobile Web Sites
Several companies have a subdomain set up specifically for mobile phones. So, for example, when users type www.ESPN.com into a smart phone the ESPN site actually figures out that they are visiting the site from a mobile device and redirects them to a subdomain, Turner explains. "That way the user experience from the phone is different than the user experience at a computer. The trick is to create a mobile site that loads quickly and provides a simple, streamlined experience," he says.
Diane Irvine, CEO of Seattle-based jewelry site Blue Nile, realized the importance of mobile delivery when her site made a $40,000 diamond sale via a mobile device in 2009. She soon learned that she needed to make her site more mobile-friendly for iPhone users. Last year, she introduced a mobile version of the Blue Nile site. It's smaller than the company's PC site in scope, with quick tabs to locate diamonds, engagement rings and gift ideas. Since the launch, Irvine says, "More than 20 percent of our shoppers are using the mobile site." The reason being is that it gives people the flexibility to shop wherever they are. "This will become the future of shopping," she adds.
Many small business owners use websites offering semi-automatic cookie-cutter mobile sites. For instance, iFolios offers templates of websites for anyone — artists, architects, real estate agents — who want to show off pictures that are optimized for mobile devices. Users pay a flat fee at iFolios ($99 or $169, depending on the level of service). Other mobile web services include DudaMobile and bMobilized. These companies offer mobile mirrors of your website through automatic tools. Monthly fees are around $9.99, which is in addition to monthly hosting charges being paid.
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How to Create a Mobile Strategy for Your Business: Mobile Apps
Want to find a recipe for a 30-minute meal? Chances are there is an app for that. Need to convey an apology through a virtual bouquet of roses? There is an app for that, too. There are now numerous mobile apps serving up informative tips, educational bits, or pure entertainment or gaming. From beverage makers to quick-service restaurants to apparel brands, many companies are using mobile apps to boost brand awareness and affinity. Your business can, too. But you must have a thorough understanding of your audience.
The best way to use apps is to create something that is both useful and valuable. More importantly, it should be functional such as a calculator, entertaining such as a video, game or music, or provide some sort of social connectedness, such as an app for a special user community, says Turner. Also, most mobile users don't want to spend an hour interacting with your content. They usually want one very specific thing. Apps are used for frequently accessed content and services while mobile browsing is more focused on content and services that are accessed less frequently.
GateGuru is an app that is centered on location awareness which airport retailers advertise on to drive users into stores, while Nestlé Purina's app provide a database of pet-friendly places around the country. Other apps make it easy to make purchases with a few clicks. For example, the ShopRite app allows customers to view and add weekly sales items to their shopping lists. And Starbucks' mobile app lets people make transactions directly with the wave of their smartphones, helping to drive sales.
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How to Create a Mobile Strategy for Your Business: Monetize Mobile Apps
Consider offering a free version of your app and then let users decide whether or not they are willing invest in a premium version with more features and content. Take for example the widely popular Angry Birds iPhone game. Its ongoing promotion was to offer a free version, while paid subscribers were given access to more challenging levels and other free add-ons.
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How to Create a Mobile Strategy for Your Business: Mobile Coupons
A growing number of companies deliver coupons via mobile devices in an effort to appeal to consumers, many of whom would never think of clipping or carrying coupons. Sign up for Target's mobile coupons and you'll get money-saving offers on items delivered via text message to your Web-enabled phone with a link to a barcode and discount offers. To redeem, simply show your coupon bar codes to the cashier, who will scan them like a regular coupon. Bath and Body Works, Sephora, JCPenney, Kohl's, and Olive Garden also offer mobile coupons.
Smaller businesses from pizza shops to spas are using services like MobileCoupons.com. Merchants can create coupons and offer them to their customers both online and on mobile phones. The service is completely free for consumers to search, geo-locate and navigate. Users have the option of printing a coupon using their computer or sharing and saving a coupon to their mobile phones to be presented for redemption at a local merchant. The service is free to set up but businesses who want to track consumer coupon usage including impressions, coupon clips, and redemptions will have to pay for such premium service.
Location based shopping coupons using mobile devices are gaining popularity. As mobile users become more acclimated to sharing their whereabouts via mobile devices, they're also are becoming more open to receiving ads and mobile coupons relevant to where they are at the moment, according to findings from JiWire's Mobile Audience Insights Report. In fact, more than 50 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted to receive location-specific advertising, with mobile coupons a more appealing incentive than check-ins. GPS and applications such as Google Maps ranked highest followed by Yelp, Facebook and Foursquare.
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How to Create a Mobile Strategy for Your Business: Mobile Campaigns and Ads
Mobile marketing presents a distinct and unique way to create interactive dialogues with customers. Mobile marketing requires matching the creative to the device's smaller screen size; designing messages that are short, instantly understood, and effective; and creating a call for action with minimal steps.
Research indicates that mobile ads perform about five times better than Internet ads. The most common mobile ads are simple text links and display adds that are sold based on cost per clicks, cost per acquisition and cost per thousand. These ads are much like the paid search campaigns on Google, Bing or Yahoo!
Mobile marketing is not about your convenience, meaning your ability to reach consumers anywhere at anytime, says Gail Z. Martin, author of 30 Days To Social Media Success. The benefits of receiving the information or discount via a mobile device must be valuable enough to the recipient. For example, says Martin, "if you are a restaurant and you use mobile phone advertising to communicate say around 4 p.m. on a Friday a great dinner special. That may be viewed as helpful. But if your company isn't time dependent, why are you choosing to send information on someone's phone versus just sending them an e-mail. It has to make sense to the recipient as a benefit and not seen as an intrusion."
Use mobile marketing solutions to drive participation at exhibitions or to drive traffic to retail environments. If you have two seats left for a workshop or an event, you can send a message offering a discount. But as a computer company do you really need to send an announcement about a discount or promotion on a laptop via mobile phone.
Make offers that are in tuned with the buying habits of the recipient. You have to sync your messaging with your customers' purchase history or favorites. As a pet shop, texting deals on dog food and dog treats to cat or bird owners will not do them much good, as an example. "If you are sophisticated enough to delve into mobile advertising, I would hope you would be sophisticated enough to have consumer buying records to know what individuals need and want," Martin says.
"You can even Tweet and asks customers what they want to receive and then show them you listened by making those same offers." This goes back to the social media piece of creating a dialogue rather than a monologue. You really need to be strategic about what content you send out using mobile media, cautions Martin.
Maintaining content is an ongoing challenge for businesses looking to foster long-term engagement through mobile channels. According to Forrester Research, create your content in the context for which it is being delivered. Simply transferring media messages from one format to another will ultimately trip up a user's experience and undermine any sort of integrity you are trying to build.
A key consideration is what are the benefits to the consumer of signing up for your mobile coupon, mobile site, mobile text message, or mobile app? Your mobile strategy has to be integrated into your overall marketing campaign, says Martin. You have to communicate all those benefits through all other marketing and social media channels.
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