Retailers warm to mobile

A new study released by Mobile Marketing Association recommends that marketers spend at least 7% of their budget on mobile. Why? The answer is simple. The number of mobile shoppers is continually increasing.
According to a new report from Forrester Research, “The State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing & Merchandising,” 44% of retailer’s promotional emails are opened on a mobile device – 16% on tablets and 28% on smartphones.
Consumers use their mobile devices to browse the net, get reviews and recommendations, interact with the brand, compare prices and check for offers. Studies show that consumers use smartphones even while shopping in-store to augment their shopping experience.
Many customers compare brands, features and prices, and use phones as a decision-making tool while in a retail outlet. In Singapore, this number is as high as 58%. Numbers are higher for India (62%) and China (74%).
Mobile marketing enables personalized and relevant customer engagement 24/7. To this end, many brands have created price comparison apps and mobile-optimized websites to meet their mobile customer needs.
Retailers are also recognizing the shift in shopping patterns and are increasing their budgets to incorporate more dollars devoted to developing mobile marketing.
There are four promising possibilities for mobile marketing. First is enhanced in-store experience and convenience. Customers are most receptive to offer messages while shopping in-store.
Technology enables companies to provide personalized and relevant messaging while they are shopping. Mobile apps add great value to shoppers and make the shopping experience more convenient. Providing product information, pushing out the latest offers, price comparison facility and facilitating quicker payments are some of the things that mobile marketing can drive to enhance shopping experience significantly. 
Sephora, a high-end cosmetics superstore, uses a mobile app to allow customers to view purchase history, scan products for more detailed information, and access their loyalty program details. Shoppers use their mobile devices to pay for purchases.
Second are location-based services for targeted advertising and geo-fencing. Geo-targeted advertising and geo-fencing ensure better conversion rates by increasing relevancy of messaging. Geo-fencing lets the advertiser track consumer location and enables them to send relevant ads when the consumer crosses over a virtual boundary. Starbucks sends consumers travelling into its geo-fence a message from their location based app with an offer, coupon etc.
Even if marketers do not use location based apps, the simple act of optimizing the website for local search will increase the odds of being found easily when consumers search for local businesses on their mobile devices.
A third area of opportunity lies on coupons. When customers are within a certain radius of a retail outlet, brands can offer coupons that can be redeemed at the outlet. In many cases, these coupons create purchase intent and convince the customer to shop since they are already in the vicinity. Successful examples are those of Groupon and Amazon.
Fourth are loyalty programs. Using mobile apps to build loyalty programs is good for both the brands and the customers as it makes targeting and tracking the rewards and points easy.
Major players that use mobile marketing strategies are Starbucks which uses apps to increase the bottom line, Toyota which uses apps to engage and build brand goodwill, and Microsoft which uses messaging to take over iPhone and Android operating systems. Chase, Delta and Starwood are more examples of how companies successfully use mobile apps to create powerful brands and deep loyalty through ongoing engagement.
Marketing studies indicate there is enormous mobile search and shopping occurring, but browsers are not landing on mobile friendly e-commerce sites. There is tremendous growth opportunities in mobile marketing and brands need to catch up with mobile-centric initiatives to provide “on the go” brand interaction.
Marketers need to take a holistic approach to mobile marketing and efficiently deploy mobile marketing across the customer lifecycle -- from attracting new customers to retention and loyalty initiatives. It is a great way to intelligently engage with the customer and present a relevant product, service and information.
Mobile technology presents an unprecedented opportunity to deliver engaging content, messaging and value to consumers. One important point to remember is that brands need to seamlessly integrate their mobile marketing with other platforms to provide a unified customer experience.
Aneesh Reddy is the co-founder and CEO of Capillary Technologies