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How Mobile is Disrupting the Customer Experience

Mobile Marketing: How mobile technology is revolutionising marketing, communications and advertising by Daniel Rowles is an essential guide to designing, implementing and measuring your mobile strategy. In this excerpt from the book, Daniel takes a look at the profound and disruptive affect mobile is already having on some businesses and markets.

'Much of the change mobile has had comes down to our understanding of the user journey. It is about convenience, choice and transparency of information now available to the consumer.

My favourite statistic to demonstrate this is that 87 per cent of retailers believe that shoppers can find better deals via their mobile device (Motorola Solutions, Annual Holiday Survey, 2012). In the same report, it’s believed that 39 per cent of walkouts (when a consumer leaves a store without purchasing) were influenced by mobile phone usage. 

87 per cent of retailers believe that shoppers can 
find better deals via their mobile device.

This is crazy. If we know that people aren’t buying because of price, and that they can easily find out that lower prices are available elsewhere, we have a few simple choices. We can compete on price (very difficult in retail), fi nd something else to compete on (like service, quality of experience, value added etc), or get out of the business before it fails. Painful news for many retailers but true none the less. 

This fundamental shift in what retailers need to provide has been caused by the convenience, choice and transparency that mobile, and more broadly, digital marketing gives. 

The attitude of many retailers is that if you need something urgently you will still come into the store. This is also being disrupted by digital and smart business. I needed to buy an audio cable for my computer. I knew that my best chance locally was a store called Maplin who always stocked these kind of products. Not only was the website able to tell me if they had the correct cable in stock, in what stores and how many, they also had smart delivery options. I could get it next day, but more importantly I could get it delivered to my home within 90 minutes (using a smart service called Shutl). Bearing in mind this was cheaper than paying for parking near the store, why would I go in-store?

The death of in-store retail

So does this mean that retail is dead? No, but it means it needs to change and adapt to an environment that has radically changed. People will still go in-store, but for different reasons. It may be for the excellent product advice, great experience, to get hands-on with a product or as a leisure activity. The one thing you can be sure of though is that, if you are competing on price, in-store retail is going to be increasingly challenging, unless your store acts as part of a multi-channel approach.

Mobile: the saviour of retail

There is, however, an alternative view to this scenario. It still includes radical change, but envisions mobile as the saviour of in-store retail. Let’s consider the concept of using mobile technology to create experiences that bolster the value proposition. There is no reason that mobile can’t bolster the value proposition that it’s worth going in-store.

By utilizing the appropriate technology, be it apps, near field communication (NFC) or mobile-optimized websites (all of which I explore in Part Two of Mobile Marketing), we can improve the in-store retail experience. It may just be that the store experience drives the online sale, but if that is the case we need to understand the user journey to analyse this.

Mobile search can tell me that another online retailer is selling the same product I’m looking at in-store cheaper online. However, it can also tell me that the store I’m in offers better quality customer service post-sale, a great returns policy and free in-store product training. It may be that by buying in-store I get access to a loyalty programme, or because I’ve signed up to their app/website I get priority treatment in-store.

For years airlines and hotels have used loyalty programmes to attract repeat custom from a market that may otherwise be price sensitive. Many of the same principles can be applied to mobile and retail (and many other markets as well).

Convenience, choice and transparency

When we look at markets that have been disrupted by digital technology, the key is to understand why this technology has changed the user experience and journey (or context of the journey).

The media industry has been massively disrupted. Music, film and publishing have all seen massive changes in the delivery of their product. Technology has created a more convenient, flexible and instantaneous delivery channel than ordering a physical product. While there will always be a demand for vinyl and print, the increased convenience, choice and the transparency of pricing meant that the industry changed quickly and consumers moved more quickly than media companies. The user experience had changed, massively for the better, and instead of embracing this, the industry dragged their heels. This allowed online piracy to seem like a viable alternative to many who would have paid online, given the option. Over 65 per cent of people are now willing to pay for content online (Nielsen, 2013).

Business culture

This brings us to a highly important point: that of the culture within an organization. In a fast paced, rapidly changing environment, which digital and mobile will continue to be for the foreseeable future, we need a culture that allows for change and flexibility. The technology behind mobile marketing in itself is not too complex (or at least I hope you’ll think so if you read Part Two of Mobile Marketing).

What is complex and generally difficult is change within organizations. Change management has always been challenging, and what mobile marketing is causing is the need for ongoing change. We need to build organizations and organizational culture that allows for rapid change. In my experience, the bigger the company, the harder this can be.

Single customer view

One very practical aspect of this is the ability to understand our potential and existing customers better. We have access to more data than ever before (I explore this data from mobile apps, advertising and websites in Part Two ofMobile Marketing). As we collect more and more data though, we need to actually do something with it. It needs to be analysed and actions taken. 

Doing something with data

In my experience many companies are now collecting and reporting on web analytics data. What they are not doing is analysing that data in any robust way and actioning that analysis. There is quite often a monthly meeting where a couple of charts are shown, generally looking at volumebased data like number of site visits. The chart is going up, everyone looks happy and the meeting moves on.

This is a huge missed opportunity to learn and improve our digital marketing efforts; data can give us great insight into how effective our mobile marketing is actually being. Take a look at Chapter 18 on mobile analytics in Mobile Marketing to learn more about this.

The idea of a single customer view is a very simple one, but can be extremely difficult to achieve (particularly in larger organizations). The idea is that we connect up the data we get from our mobile apps, websites, e-mail campaigns, social media and so on, build a complete picture of our audience, and are thus able to become smarter marketers. In the best-case scenario, we can connect all of this data to our customer relationship management (CRM) systems and we have a unified and easy way to interrogate sources of information.

Figure: Achieving a Single Customer View


The painful truth about integration

The challenge of integrating data sources is that it is generally a fairly complicated IT project for most organizations. What we are really talking about is database, third-party supplier and legacy systems integration, and what this means in reality is complexity. However, it doesn’t need to be this way.

If I am a small business, it’s a different picture. I can get some form of web analytics like Google Analytics, a cloud-based CRM system like Salesforce, and various systems like MailChimp (an online e-mail service provider (ESP)). All of these will ‘plug in’ to one another with not too much effort, and I have a relatively effective single customer view.

Even in large organizations, by carefully selecting suppliers with a single customer view in mind, I can work toward this ideal scenario step by step. We may not be able to integrate all data immediately, but this should be our long-term objective.

Next step: marketing automation

Marketing automation is something that is most often used in the B2B world, but it can be applied to almost any industry, product or service to some extent. The core principle is that if I have insight into your behaviour on a single or multiple channels, I can automatically trigger relevant communications to you at the right time.

At its most simple level, imagine getting a push notification via an app some time after you have made a purchase, asking for a review. This is a basic form of marketing automation.

At its more advanced level I can start to ‘score’ your behaviour across multiple platforms to try and identify particular types of customers, potential leads or customers who are having problems finding the right information.

The B2B world tends to be well suited to marketing automation due to the long sales times, involved buying process, multiple touch points before purchase and high value of a sale. It can also be applied to consumer goods if tied in with digital services that are there to bolster value proposition. For example, a sportswear manufacturer can track your behaviour through an app that monitors your fitness goals and triggers relevant communications at the right time.

Mobile as a change enabler

So we’ve looked at how mobile technology can be disruptive, but also how this can actually be a change for good by improving the customer experience and can lead to improved awareness, engagement and loyalty in the long term. By fully exploiting the technology available in a way that embraces the increased convenience, choice and transparency available to the mobile consumer, we can mitigate risk and maximize opportunity.'