permission mobile marketing CRMIn mobile, shift happens — often — and once again we could count on the recent Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum event to provide insights marketers need to know in order to navigate the tough terrain ahead. And, if you didn’t make it to Istanbul in November to hear the great speaker lineup live, Stéphanie Viriot has collected the key takeaways and connected the dots in an in-depth series of posts over at the Gemalto blog. (Be sure to check out her follow-up analysis that just went live today.)

So, what has changed? The MMA event showed us that mobile CRM (also called mobile loyalty) is becoming the end-goal, eclipsing ‘top of the funnel’ mobile marketing objectives (such as raising brand awareness) to lead the business agenda for 2013 and beyond. In fact, Gemalto went one step further, using its presentation to show how smarter (and more effective) conversations in mobile marketing can result when marketers mobilize their CRM strategy as part of the plan.

It’s all about understanding that mobile is at the core of a more conversational approach to commerce, one that draws from a deeper exchange with people (with a due regard to their privacy) to deliver value (through relevance) and — more importantly—cultivate lasting customer loyalty.

This dovetails well with what analyst firm Accenture calls the shift from mobile convenience, where mobile was a means to an end, to “Mobile Life,” where mobile is more like our default state. It points out that mobility “boosts the number of interactions a consumer can have with a seller and that yields data making for better segmentation and more personalized service. Combining digital as well as physical footprints, mobility will give sellers multidimensional data for customer relationship management – combining context, identity and behavior.

Think beyond “sellers” to marketers, brands and operators, and you can see where this is going.

All of this contextual information will be a powerful boost to innovative marketers, enabling them to go by what consumers actually do, not just what they say. With sophisticated, real-time analytics and a due regard for privacy, brands, marketers and mobile operators can wield the tremendous power of mobile to understand their customers, deliver better service and gain loyalty in return.

Numbers speak volumes

We live our lives on mobile.  Our devices are never more than three feet away.  What’s more, we look at our mobile phone displays at least 150 times a day, that’s roughly every 5 minutes (!). Mobile also plays a central role in our daily routines.  We reach to mobile devices to liberate our work lives, organize our home lives and strengthen our social lives.

Mobile is also our primary communications tool.  Two-thirds of the human race rely on text messaging to connect with a growing network of family, friends, businesses, organizations — even governments.  Little wonder that SMS is the most widely used data application on the planet. Tomi Ahonen — independent consultant and author of several industry best-selling books including Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media: Cellphone, Cameraphone, iPhone, Smartphone — argues that mobile is a new mass media and — what’s more— the most potent form of media in the history of mankind — following print from the 1500s, recording from the 1900s, cinema from the 1910s, radio from the 1920s TV from the 1950s and Internet from the 1990s. Mobile is the mass media where “all forms of content and communications converge.”

But mobile is also a fiercely personal device, which makes it ideal mass media for interaction and engagement and creating the conversations that can vastly improve customer relationship management.

Relationship media

Little wonder that Gemalto’s Caroline Doussot (@carolinedoussot) used the MMA event to explain how (and why) mobile is a “relationship media.” Put another way, the combination of mobile and CRM is capable of transforming all interactions between companies and people because it harnesses the unique bond we all have with our mobile devices to deliver us what we genuinely appreciate (services, advertising, marketing, content, apps — the works).

Significantly, recent research from Gemalto (based on a survey of 2,400+ consumers in France and the U.K.) sheds interesting light on our appetite for mobile marketing. While the vast majority have received marketing on their mobile devices, an equally high percentage are not impressed.

The survey also explores the disconnect between mobile marketing people receive and what they expect. Unsurprisingly, it found that people feel more comfortable if they can call the shots. This means, having a say in the marketing they receive because the company has asked their permission first (and provides a clear and simple way to opt out at any time.

More detailed results, data and analysis in my next white paper, produced in collaboration with Joy Liuzzo, my partner in our new MobileFirst venture, and sponsored by Gemalto. In it we outline why companies must have a conversational approach to marketing, commerce, CRM and everything! This means drawing on all mobile channels — messaging, mobile web, apps and social media — to ensure the exchange is deep and ongoing. Gemalto adds a new kind of interactive and innovative mobile messaging channel to the mix with an approach that draws on its heritage as a leading provider of SIM cards and security solutions. This channel, called Smart Messages, delivers messages — open and ready to read — to the phone’s idle screen. Studies show response is more immediate (and the experience is more seamless) because consumers can interact with the messages through a series of single clicks, not sending texts.

Caroline connected the dots in this data to deliver the audience at Istanbul three best practices they should bake into all customer interaction, from marketing, to commerce, to customer loyalty. (I’ve added some context based on my 3+ years experience analyzing permission based mobile marketing strategy and developments.)

  1. Ask for permission: we are social creatures and mobile amplifies our requirement for two-way conversations that respect our ‘space’. It’s a conversation, so don’t barge in. Ask first and don’t overstep the boundaries. (This is also confirmed by the consumer survey where 82 percent of respondents said that permission was a condition for them to accept marketing in the first place.)
  2. Segment: we want what we want, and it’s up to marketers to figure that out. It’s easier to serve — and consistently delight — a customer once you get to know them.  It helps to be able to ask — and find out —their interests, personal preferences and motivations.  This information allows companies to refine and improve their customer segmentation, ensuring the delivery of personal and relevant information and communications that are essential to boost customer loyalty. This approach also provides the basis for all communications with the customer.
  3. Implement the ‘Golden Rules of Engagement’: permission (respect our privacy), relevance (give us value), reward (live up to your part of the bargain; we give you our time/loyalty, what are you giving back?)

The pivotal importance of these best practices is further supported by the survey results.

  • TRANSPARENCY: 90 percent said they want to have a clear opt-out function, 86 percent want to be able to identify the sender of the message
  • RELEVANCE:  71 percent want the message to be in line with their tastes and requirements
  • EASE OF USE: 66 percent demand to have a quick and easy access to relevant information
  • PRIVACY: Over half of all respondents — after they have opted in, of course — prefer to receive a few relevant messages (generally 1-3) and during working hours (not evenings)

Following this approach can lay the groundwork for a successful strategy to achieve a deeper, more valuable relationship with customers —allowing companies to move past one-off pitches to create engagement, build overarching mCRM programs and boost customer loyalty.

My take:

Customers are empowered to request — even demand — products and services on their terms. Against this backdrop, it’s never been more important for companies to know and understand their customers.  It is essential to create a 360-degree view of your customers based on details about their preferences, personal tastes and how they are using their mobile devices. This is why permission is critical. But it’s not just about gleaning information. It’s about getting our ‘green light’ to ask us more questions and listen to our answers.  Enable an ongoing conversation and you can build the capabilities mix to satisfy the customer, maximize revenue opportunities and create real and lasting loyalty. Turn the model on its head and mobile is the relationship media that companies can use to find out why a customer is unhappy, and work to fix it straight away. This personal outreach can turn a potential defector into a powerful advocate — and with mCRM this research and feedback process can be ongoing and automatic.

  • NEW! Achieving App Impact: Using SMS To Encourage Ongoing Engagement