The following is an exclusive guest contributed post to MMW by Rob Hammond, Senior Director, Mobile Engagement at Syniverse.
The ability to gain insight into consumers’ preferences and strengthen engagement through precise mobile outreach has rapidly become a must for today’s brands. This engagement is about forming personal relationships with customers through real-time interactions, and in today’s mobile world this is more possible than ever. Mobile devices have evolved into true digital assistants that are so valuable that people keep them within reach at all times.
To this end, the app, with its seeming unlimited versatility and popularity, has risen to become the centerpiece of many brands’ mobile strategies in customer engagement. Yet apps now face several challenges that diminish their use as engagement channels for gaining insights on and acting on information related to customers’ mobile context.
In observing this development, I increasingly think that our industry has reached a dysfunctional relationship with the mobile app. Over the past year, I’ve had numerous discussions with customers and companies alike about disappointing mobile app adoption, app overload, and app aggregation, and modest expectations for new mobile app deployments. Fortunately, though, our industry is self-critical and has friends that point out unhealthy relationships, and these discussions have led me to a profound observation about connecting with customers through mobile.
Ultimately, mobile isn’t about marketing or mobile apps or the Web – it’s about engagement. It’s about engaging with customers at the point of need and delivering the richest, most compelling experience possible. It’s about adding context to the interaction – mobile context. In this way, I think our singular reliance on apps for engagement will give way to broader, more inclusive thinking that includes another mobile channel, one that is proven and powerful but not fully given the credit it should be – text messaging. When we look at the state of the way we use apps today versus the way we can take advantage of the time-tested capabilities of text messaging, this becomes clear.
The App “Consumption” Process
I grant you that if I can get a user to engage through a mobile app, it should be the richest, most compelling user experience. But that’s a big “if.”
Consider for a moment the consumption process for a mobile app. First, a user goes through a discovery phase; then there is the need to learn about the app; then a user goes to the appropriate app store, searches and finds the app, installs the app; then the user accepts the user agreement, approves notifications, and approves location; and finally the user enters credentials or signs up. The user likely already has 50 apps that fill the first two screens and thus has consolidated apps in groups. This is not an easy, low-friction consumption process!
What’s more, the utility of the app itself is diminished as notifications are marginalized with small icons or back pages, or the app is just deleted. Equally challenging is engaging customers before the app is installed or during stalled installations, encouraging waning usage, and re-engaging with users after they stop using the app. How does a brand engage with an app “user” when the user is not using the app?
And, finally, apps are now competing with pictures, entertainment and the operating system itself for space on the device. Processor, battery life and memory are limited assets causing consumers to choose between upgrades, apps, photos and songs. When it comes down to a family photo or an app, the app is going to lose.
Revisiting Text Messaging
Despite the proliferation of apps and increasing sophistication of smartphones, text messaging continues to offer one of the most ubiquitous and reliable mobile interactions. In a mobile world of multiple devices, operating systems and service providers, messaging is the one common denominator through which all mobile devices communicate.
According to a Forbes compilation of 50 essential mobile marketing facts, 96 percent of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. Despite periodic news reports speculating on the decline of messaging, this channel continues to be the silent workhorse of mobile and will continue to offer an unmatched foundation on which companies can anchor their mobile strategy. Today’s text-messaging solutions enable the delivery of everything from simple text messages to short video ads, empowering companies to deliver a range of personalized, time-sensitive content, including reminders, notifications, sales promotions, public safety alerts, photos, videos and audio clips.
But with great access comes great responsibility. Text messaging is the most personal and the highest-priority interaction medium for consumers, and for this reason a brand must place the consumer at the center of the communication. Opt-ins are a regulatory requirement in many regions and are a best practice everywhere.
Another critical aspect of text messaging is that it’s not just important as a communication method in and of itself. More significantly, it serves as a springboard that can bridge mobile users to rich Web experiences. For example, a text message can include links to drive a user to a rub-off game, an app download, a video, or even something like a ticket that can be added in a user’s Passbook account. In this way, messaging can serve as a crucial tip of the spear in spurring engagement.
Where We Go From Here
Today’s mobile users increasingly want engagement in real time and in context to their usage. The app has been the singular focus of many brands’ mobile interactions. The app is a necessary part of a mature marketing program, but it is not sufficient. Text messaging, on the other hand, continues to offer one of the most ubiquitous and reliable mobile interaction options, with the versatility to engage consumers through a wide range of content formats. To reach customers and have your message read its clear text-messaging is the one communication method marketers can’t ignore.