In just the last few years, the mobile experience has taken a quantum leap, with users having integrated mobile devices in their lives as an essential personal tool within reach at all times. Consequently, consumers have become empowered as never before: They want brand engagement in real time, in context to their personal usage, and they want it now.
Yet the explosion of mobile services now available means that brands have to compete against a dizzying assortment of new channels offering wide-ranging promotions and services. This makes it harder for retailers to attract attention and cater to consumers’ expectations for engagement.
As a result, improving the customer experience has emerged as a crucial challenge for retailers. Delivering a personalised mobile experience can ensure that a retailer stands out amongst the crowd – but only if it’s done properly. This personalisation must guide the way in which companies deliver customer engagement, while ensuring they stay on the right side of the ‘creepy/cool boundary’.
This boundary is the notion that, just as you may pull away when a casual acquaintance shares too much information about himself, a customer can withdraw if a company goes too far past a customer’s comfort level (creepy). The opposite is also true, though, with situations where a friend shares something only the friend and you will understand that becomes a rewarding experience that draws you in to get more (cool).
The key to delivering personalised experiences is to build relationships with consumers through ‘mobile context’ and real-time interaction. And in today’s mobile world, this is more possible than ever. Mobile context consists of the vast amount of data that operators and enterprises have accumulated and that allows them to discern detailed information, such as a subscriber’s device location, service usage, and purchase history. This treasure trove of data opens a wealth of personalisation opportunities for mobile marketing efforts.
In my recent work with customers, I’ve identified four ways in which mobile context and other assets can be used to more effectively engage today’s mobile consumers. Each way offers retailers of all sizes a method to make their mobile marketing stand out:
- Identity personalisation – Identity personalisation is the simplest but also the most essential form of personalisation. Get a consumer’s name wrong, and a brand can disappear off of the consumer’s radar almost immediately. Collecting a mobile user’s simple identity data – their name, age and gender – can provide the basic detail needed to set up a personalised mobile marketing campaign.
Addressing a consumer by their name, with a message that is appropriate to their age and gender, is the first lesson in personalisation. This can include targeted offers and product promotions to encourage a purchase. For example, a female millennial is unlikely to respond to a push notification offering a grocery store discount that is written in a formal style. But send her a ‘money off’ voucher for her favourite department store opening, and this may well lead to a purchase.
- Geopersonalisation – Geopersonalisation is the tailoring of messages according to a person’s location – time zone, post code or network. This type of personalisation uses location-related data from a device or network, and it’s based on the way that consumers are now inseparable from their mobiles. As a result, the development of innovations such as geofencing and beacon communication can help maximise the potential for engagement with consumers who are on the go.
For example, retailers can use beacons to communicate with customers that are in their favourite shops in a way that connects online behavior with offline sales. Beacons are small wireless devices that constantly broadcast radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets. A company’s mobile app can listen for that signal and react, which can effectively trigger a real-time location-based action in the app, such as the delivery of a coupon or discount based on a customer’s proximity to a product.
- Channel personalisation – Channel personalisation is about interacting with a consumer through their preferred communication channel. The key to delivering this type of personalisation is either through inferred mobile interactions – parroting the customer’s choice of communication channel – or directly through a consumer’s communication preferences. Campaign opt-in is one way a brand may choose to get this information directly from customers.
Today’s fragmented mobile landscape, which includes apps, social media, text messaging, and email, among other channels, makes it more challenging to engage with a consumer through a single channel. On top of this, consumers set the agenda on how they want to be contacted. For this reason, retailers must learn to respect and deliver on the consumer’s engagement expectations if they want to be effective.
- Point-of-sale personalisation – Point-of-sale personalisation is when a brand makes offers based on historical purchase data. Historical data is a collection of billing data, purchase history, brand affiliation data and search history.
This type of personalisation takes into consideration the customer’s propensity to buy – a model based on how often a customer makes a purchase and the likelihood that they’ll purchase again. This is the strongest model on which to guide personalised engagement, as it is based on what a consumer has actually done rather that what they say they will do.
Ultimately, the degree to which a retailer can personalise its mobile marketing is, of course, determined by its size and the amount of mobile context accessible. For smaller retailers, identity personalisation and channel personalisation are simple but important ways through which to improve mobile customer experience. At the same time, larger retailers in an already saturated market should not ignore the growth and pervasiveness of mobile.
Regardless of size, those retailers first in offering a personalised and valuable customer experience across mobile devices are likely to be the most successful.