Mobile: Influencing the Customer Journey

Mobile Influencing the Customer JourneyThe following is a guest contributed post from Valerie Davis, ‎Vice President, Search Media at PM Digital.

Our lives today revolve around mobile devices. From scheduling, to searching, to social connecting, and yes, even purchasing; our day now begins and ends with a smartphone in hand.  As consumers, we may not stop and consciously think about every mobile touch point throughout our days, but as marketers, it’s crucial that we acknowledge the shifting behaviors.  It no longer suffices to just cover mobile as part of your broader digital marketing strategy; in 2015 you must have a mobile first mentality as you develop your strategy.

I encourage you to consider for a moment, how you incorporate your smartphone into your everyday life. Think about that last ecommerce purchase you made.  Think back to what initiated that purchase and what process you went through to research, consider and trigger the actual purchase.  What was your purchase path?  Is it an “a ha” moment for you? As marketers, we recognize mobile’s growing market share. Google stated this year at Think Shopper that “shoppers on average search 6x’s before converting” and “90% of users reference multiple devices.” Google also stated “32% of shopping BEGINS on a mobile device.” It is also forecasted that at some point in early 2015, mobile queries will surpass desktop…for good.  Mobile’s push affects every brand, across every vertical catering to every demographic from kids to matures.  Mobile’s significance is no secret – every publication has preached about its power, yet some brands are still holding back from adapting a mobile-centric mentality. Why? Mobile has granted marketers an always-on direct line to their customers, which has, in turn, raised the stakes for more sophisticated and targeted messaging, personalization and relevancy.

The path to purchase has always been about the customer, and understanding their intentions, frustrations and expectations from first query to final conversion. Not too long ago, the customer journey was linear and simplistic. Today the customer journey has gotten far more complex with many diversions and detours, almost always including a mobile device. Mobile devices provide gateways allowing brands to guide customers through these diversions engaging them through every phase of the sales cycle.  For brands to be present from initial search to final conversion they are going to need to embrace mobile and leverage it as another opportunity to engage and win a customer. This enhanced connection has created more responsibility for marketers to appropriately personalize the customer journey.

How to maximize mobile as part of the path to purchase:

Targeted Bidding/Messaging– Targeting bidding gives marketers the opportunity to show consumers that their brand knows and cares about their shopping intentions, interests and behaviors. Consumers don’t have the patience to be bombarded with irrelevant, poorly timed brand communications. They expect better and brand marketers must rise to meet those expectations. Through micro-targeting, you have the ability to personalize every facet of your brand’s engagement within the customer sales journey. Executing customized messaging based on device of choice, time of day and lifestyle segmentation ensures that customers always receive the right messages at the right times for them.

Beacons – Today Beacons are bridging the gap between the digital and physical retail experience. Essentially, beacon hardware is a small, easily disguisable device that retailers implant within their walls to communicate directly with shoppers via their mobile devices. Through emitting Bluetooth signals, retailers are able to send real-time push notifications for deals, brand promotions and new products.

While Beacon technology seems simple enough to implement, the challenge lies within convincing customers to accept beacon technology into their shopping experiences. First and foremost, smartphone owners must enable their Bluetooth settings, which is not necessarily a top of mind functionality for many consumers. Additionally, users must opt-in to location services and be willing to run affiliate brand or third-party apps to receive the messaging. To convince consumers to put this much work into retail communications technology, brands must offer messaging that is highly relevant and targeted. When used appropriately, beacons have the power to transform the in-store retail experience for the better. But, brands must tread lightly. If misused, a brand can easily overestimate its presence on consumer’s smartphones; customers want to be informed but not bombarded.

Attribution– Last-click is last year.  Despite the strides that have been made in mobile ad tech, comprehensive attribution is still somewhat elusive to marketers. According to eMarketer, only 18% of marketers today are employing a sophisticated, multi-platform attribution solution. However, understanding attribution and putting some level on it into action will be the key to understanding the importance of mobile to your customer journey and developing a cohesive cross-device strategy. Tracking users as they move from desktop to tablet to smartphone and back is no easy task today, but tomorrow will be here before you know it… and it will quickly become a necessity. Integrating a third-party solution can provide a holistic view of performance across your entire digital ecosystem. While attribution will certainly be a marketing focal point in 2015, the practice of holistic attribution including mobile devices is still relatively new, and subsequently, there remain some blind spots. If your brand is hesitant to opt for a full-fledged investment into third-party solutions, developing an incremental lift methodology from mobile device to desktop is an effective means of adopting a workable cross-device attribution model that will help guide a strategy your brand can build upon in the coming months.

Customers, and their most trusted mobile devices, are now calling the shots and imploring unique, customized experiences. If your brand fails to recognize and acknowledge customers as individuals then you will fail to maintain a place in their mobile-driven lives in the coming years.