What boutique owners should know about mobile marketing

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With smart phone usage set to reach a record high, we’ve enlisted the experts to answer every question you have on mobile marketing…   

In the age of the smart phone, connecting with customers has never been easier. In the UK alone in 2015 there were 41.09 million smart phone users – a figure that is set to reach to 53.96 million by 2022. That’s more than half of the population walking around with several channels in their pocket that can be utilised by businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But with social media, email, SMS and push notifications already regularly appearing on your customer’s handsets, making yourself heard as a brand among all the other noise is becoming increasingly difficult. So for this reason, we’ve enlisted the experts to reveal how independent retailers can create their own successful mobile marketing campaign…

1. What is mobile marketing and why is it important?  

“Mobile marketing is a digital strategy aimed at reaching people on their mobile devices – such as smartphones and tablets – via multiple channels like email, websites, social media and in apps,” explains Amit Dar, strategic partnerships lead for mobile marketing expert Taptica (Taptica.com). “There are now five billion people on the planet using mobile phones – that’s almost as many as the world’s total population – so it’s the main way companies should look to reach potential customers. This is especially true for smaller retailers who can use local mobile marketing strategies to hone in on target audiences.”

2. How can independent retailers begin to create their own mobile marketing strategy?

With so many different channels to consider, creating your own mobile marketing strategy may seem daunting. However, according to Dar, it’s possible to start small: “On a basic level, make sure your social media presence is tailored to mobile users, using shorter, more visual content that people can enjoy scrolling through when they’re on the move,” he says. “Also, ensure you invest in a mobile website because many people will be browsing using their primary device – their mobile phone. Consider building your own app to gather information about users.” And for those who really want to invest in this area? “Partner with a mobile advertising platform that can create content on your behalf and tailor advertising to your specific needs across mobile, in apps, across social and video platforms,” he adds.

3. How can indies tailor a campaign for their current customers?

According to Dina Townsend, vice president retail practice leader for global communications company RMG (RGMnetworks.com), the best way to target customers is to integrate a mobile solution with a customer loyalty programme: “This will allow you to build customer profiles to schedule and send relevant and targeted messages to the right customer,” she explains. “This approach offers the best possible sales lift as it is done in a way that respects the customer’s preferences and predicts their future behaviours.” The expert believes that retailers need to tread carefully when marketing to today’s consumers: “Shoppers are focused on self and fulfilment of their own needs,” she says. “Larger retailers know this and have complex systems that leverage predictive analytics to target and retarget their customers all along the omnichannel journey. If small retailers are to compete, they need to match the communication that their larger competitors have with their target audience and provide a much more personal level of service. Gender and age allow for one level of personalisation, but if indies are going to compete aggressively they are going to have to prove that they can better track the needs and shopping histories of their customers.”

 4. How can boutiques reach new customers who fit their target market profile?

Mobile marketing is a vast area that offers many options for businesses. For this reason, is it important that indies speak to their customer via the right channel to maximise the success of their campaign. “The important thing to remember when using mobile marketing is that different markets use mobile so differently,” warns Keith White, MD for Dobell Menswear (Dobell.co.uk). “So you first need to identify your target audience and then identify the channels they use and are most receptive too. For example, the younger generation are on Instagram for a large proportion of their mobile usage, whereas their parents are more likely to use Facebook as their main source of social media.” So how can you find out which channels your target customers are using? “Ideally you could survey your current customer base to find out what they use the most,” says White. “Of course, even with the research, there will be an element of trial and error. So even if you can’t do your own investigating, there is a lot of helpful data out there to advise the age, gender and even professions of those who use each channel.”

 5. How can retailers collect mobile data from existing customers?

To create any mobile marketing campaign, businesses will of course need to collect mobile phone numbers, email addresses and ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ across their social media channels. How can you do this? “For independent retailers it is not unrealistic to offer special in-store promotions in exchange for survey data,” says Townsend. “Customers like to talk about themselves and share their needs with retailers if they believe they will receive something in return.” According to the expert, this reciprocity does not always have to be tangible or financial: it may be in the form of better customer service or more relevant communication. “Integrating loyalty applications with content management applications can go a long way to building a usable customer profile,” she says. “Particularly for small retailers, this insight can be used to inspire online pick up in-store trips, which increase brick and mortar footfall and may result in an upsell or unplanned purchase – and this transactional data further builds the customer profile.” She adds: “Another use case is to invite customers to schedule personal time in the store and have their ‘virtual carts’ waiting for them in the fitting room by appointment. This is a level of personalisation larger retailers are offering, but smaller independent retailers can master.”

6. Why is it important to get to know not only what your customers use on their mobiles but how they use them too?

There is not necessarily one channel to fit an entire customer base, so retailers should be open to creating tailored campaigns that will suit various scenarios. “Shoppers have channel preferences and further choose channels by circumstance,” says Townsend. “For example, frequent travellers may use mobile for shopping when they are on the road and therefore show higher instances of purchasing in this channel, but prefer a more robust experience in store when they are on the ground. The use of a channel can be situational.” For this reason, it is crucial that marketing happens all along the omnichannel journey. “This concept respects that there are multiple shopping channels, such as in-store, e-commerce and mobile,” she adds. “There are strategies that are more effective in one channel than in others; however, customers do not want to experience friction in each channel. In short, they expect a continuous and fluid journey all along this path to purchase.” What’s more, Townsend recommends that retailers of every size should be mindful of the ‘optichannel’ concept, which implies “a deep understanding of each individual customer’s optimal channel of communicating with the brands they shop.” She continues: “Are they more prone to SMS, social, or email? It is a wise strategy to garner this information and then use that channel to market to a customer rather than hitting them equally across all channels and potentially diluting the message.”

 7. Why should indies consider creating their own business app with push notifications to target customers?

Mobile apps and push notifications have become a staple marketing method for big brands and corporations. So are independent retailers missing a trick? “It is an investment, but mobile apps are good ways to increase customer loyalty because they offer an effective user experience and establish a direct connection with them,” Dar explains. “Currently the app store has around one million apps and there have been around 50 billion app downloads so it’s a competitive environment. According to UKOM’s data, 82 per cent of time spent on mobiles is in apps. However, many purchases do still happen outside of the app environment so retailers should still offer a good experience across the board on mobile.”

8. Is there any new technology in the pipeline for mobile marketing that indies should know about?  

Reaching and engaging with customers has never been easier. And with new innovations coming into the fore, retailers will be able to hone their campaigns to reach new levels of personalisation like never before: “Location targeting is set to shift the future of mobile marketing,” says Dar. “There will soon be precise technologies like beacons that will be especially useful to small or local retailers wanting to target very specific audiences when they’re most likely to be making purchases. There will also be a completely new set of wearable technologies and voice assistants that will provide a new wave of data that hasn’t yet been used by brands for marketing purposes.”