Emerging Platforms

Mobile Brand Engagement 101

Posted by Barbara Apple Sullivan on April 9th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

As smartphones become ever more pervasive, companies are increasingly realizing the need to extend their communications to mobile. The idea of mobile brand engagement is still fairly new, though. In this post, I’ll discuss and define the current state of mobile use, and then explain how brands can build customer loyalty on this unique platform.

Users

College graduates (ages 18-35) and those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more have stronger adoption rates to mobile and are more likely to use smartphones, but every major demographic group is showing growth in use of mobile devices. 46% of Americans use a smartphone as of February 2012. Two likely factors influencing this growth are:

  1. The cost of smartphones has gone down significantly as more competitors enter the market and drive down price, and more carriers offer them (e.g., AT&T no longer has exclusivity for the iPhone).
  2. Businesses, including clients of ours, are beginning to use tablets and mobile apps internally and externally—for document sharing, quick and easy communication with colleagues who are working remotely, and interacting with clients (e.g., Sales). Plus, employees are expected to have email and internet access after hours and outside the office—and the easiest way to do this is with mobile. This means that people who aren’t necessarily young are adopting the technology.

Brands

Mobile presents a unique opportunity for brands to increase customer loyalty, for 5 major reasons:

  1. Customers are already on mobile, so brands should be there, too. Brands don’t have to convince consumers to use the platform/channel; only to use/download their app.
  2. Mobile presents the potential for an unprecedented level of access to customers, given that people take their smartphones everywhere, and it’s culturally acceptable to use them virtually anywhere and anytime. Through apps, brands can engage with customers more frequently and more directly.
  3. People have intimate relationships—even physical/emotional attachments—to their smartphones. When they download an app, they invite a brand into their personal space. With the right mobile experience, brands can become a fixture of an individual’s daily routine. The brands that successfully enter this space are the ones that tailor their apps to the user’s needs, likes, and behavior.
  4. The inherently interactive quality of mobile makes it an essential channel for reaching today’s conversation-seeking consumers. Mobile is a forum for developing a brand’s reputation as “modern” in the sense that it is both tech-savvy and responsive to customer opinion.
  5. Use of mobile devices and the possibilities for mobile brand engagement are only expanding, so it’s wise for most brands to extend their communications to this key channel.

Measuring Success

Quantitative measurements are easy: downloads, repeat usage, and time spent engaging are all major metrics. Other metrics really will depend on your business model—it could be shares/likes or it could be commerce conversions.

Qualitative measurements, on the other hand, are highly subjective and entirely dependent on your goals. Are you trying to reposition a brand? Are you trying to embrace or reject a stereotype (think: Old Spice's social campaign)? The extent to which you succeed may not be measured in numbers but in a subtle change in demographics or some other less tangible goal.

As different as mobile is from other channels, a company’s mobile strategy should align with its overarching brand strategy. Consider your larger communications infrastructure, and avoid developing an app as a one-off project, which often leads to a fragmented brand expression. In the same vein, try not to bifurcate traditional-media and digital strategies. Think of mobile and your other digital channels as content vehicles, then decide how to distribute your content: What do you want to tell people about your brand? How do you stay consistent without being redundant? In what forums do you want to start conversations? How can technology support customers’ interaction with your brand—online and on the go?

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