Mobile Marketing “Teams” Still a Dream for Many Brands

Get advice from two mobile marketing pros on how to get the resources you need to take full advantage of the mobile opportunity for your brand.


As mobile marketing continues to evolve and mature, many businesses are still working to figure out how to manage mobile within their organizations. Who owns the mobile strategy? Do we need a team, or will a team of one do? How do we allocate budget for mobile experiments and initiatives? How do we measure ROI?

In the middle of this debate sit mobile pros who are confident that mobile is a must, but who still struggle to get the resources they need to create the outcomes they know are possible.

To help pros who are caught in the in-between — struggling to make the business case for more resources and headcount while building and executing a solid strategy with the resources they have available today — we sat down with two experts to discuss and get advice: Sergio Falletti, Technology Partner (mobile apps) at DigitasLBi and Emily Buckman, Global Strategic Consultant at Urban Airship.

Q. How have large brands adapted to mobile and built out their internal mobile teams? Are you seeing any common pitfalls or challenges?

Sergio: All the evidence shows that mobile is a pervasive channel brands can’t ignore.  But 48% of brands don’t have a mobile strategy in place, according to Econsultancy and Adobe’s Digital Intelligence Briefing.

Large organisations have a heritage of brick & mortar operations and call-centre operations. In the last couple of decades they have been forced to respond to the growth of the web – new marketing channels, e-commerce, customer self-service and more.

While these organisations were still on that journey, mobile exploded. And as a result, some of them didn’t respond adequately to the immense opportunity. Facebook is a great example of one that did, and they are now a predominantly mobile business. A few of our clients followed, and now 30-50% of their interactions are app-based. Others didn’t, and may see high mobile traffic through their sites, but low conversion and low app adoption.

It turns into a Catch 22. If mobile isn’t a dominant skillset or function for a brand, then it doesn’t get its own dedicated team or budget. And that means businesses don’t have the data they need to prove ROI and justify more infrastructure and resources. It is a major challenge in both the agency world and with our clients.

Emily: Many brands are still allocating resources and budget to what I call their “comfort” areas — traditional mass media channels like print, radio & television.

Mobile is a unique 1:1 engagement channel with its own set of ground rules and opportunities. And many marketers who have built their careers on traditional channels are just inexperienced with what mobile can do — they’re still learning.

So many enterprise organisations simply don’t have a mobile team. Instead mobile gets assigned to someone else in the organization — a social media manager or an email manager. And that’s better than no one working on mobile, but it means that brands are not taking advantage of the massive opportunity to connect with customers and drive value.

Q. What are some of the best ways you have seen brands think about mobile as a channel?

Sergio: Large organisations can learn from startups and disruptive mobile-first organisations. These kinds of businesses often have to solve problems by drawing from a limited talent pool without interrupting the rest of the business. They succeed by creating cross-functional teams that are agile and outcome focused.

What I mean by outcome focused is that they ask, “What is the opportunity or problem we are looking to solve, and what departments can help find answers?” By bringing in someone from marketing, IT, product, customer service, etc., they can have people with the appropriate expertise going after the opportunity without needing to hire a large scale dedicated team.

Emily: In terms of marketing and consumer engagement, mobile can be thought of as its own channel. But, from what I’ve seen, organisations that are the most successful are those that realise mobile ultimately it sits across everything. A mobile website, native app, email, social — it all needs to be thought of as a multi-channel approach. This works because it’s how consumers think about the brands they buy from. It’s still a relatively new concept, and brands have a lot of work to do to fully develop this philosophy and skillset internally.

eHarmony incorporated push notifications into an otherwise “traditional” marketing campaign: they were surprised by the outsized impact notifications had on their results. Read the story here.

Q: What is your top advice to help mobile pros build out their teams and get mobile right?

Emily: Above all, you need to get the data right. The best way to justify more internal resources and budget is by proving ROI, and that can be really challenging with newer channels.

In retail, for example, mobile might not be the channel that the customer converts in, but it plays a big role in terms of pre-shopping research. It’s easier to see the direct impact that email or PPC is having rather than the indirect impact mobile has on the customer journey.

But there are ways to demonstrate value if you put the proper measurements in place. I worked with one UK department store to implement custom events in their app. What we found is that 39% of sales made in their app over the cyber weekend last year were influenced by a push notification or in-app message. Those kinds of numbers speak volumes to the rest of the business.

Sergio: I completely agree. How can you go into your CRM and work out where mobile initiatives are contributing to retention, services add-ons or upgrades?

One of the clients we work with is National Trust. When we started with them they had around 15 or 20 different apps that were not performing consistently. The question was what to do. Should they consolidate the apps to one app? Could they justify such an investment purely on a cost-reduction basis?

We looked at the app data, but also went deeper, and looked at their CRM data. We identified a significant opportunity in increasing membership renewals. Consolidating their apps into one became more than a cost-cutting exercise: it became an opportunity to switch their mobile strategy from customer acquisition to encouraging members to make the most of their relationship with National Trust.

Shortly after making these changes and seeing the way they were able to move the needle,  the whole organisation saw the value of having the apps. They never would have gotten there without access to the right data, which helped drive the right strategy and ultimately the right business outcomes.

Q: What is your top advice to help brands get it right?

Emily: My top advice is for brands to stay focused on delivering value for your customers.

It’s critical, before launching a new channel businesses, to take a step back, look at the customer experience and ask “What value are we driving, and what outcome are we trying to achieve?”

The temptation is to rush into something that is new and exciting in order to stay ahead of competition. But time and again we have seen that approach fail. We are seeing it now with chatbots, AR and VR — brands don’t have a mobile strategy, yet they are already diving into these new technologies. I have to wonder if it will be effective.

Sergio: Exactly. Creating an app for the sake of having one doesn’t work. It’s the same thing when it comes to push messaging — or an overall mobile engagement strategy. As an industry, we need to move beyond these common mistakes.

There is so much potential to engage with users through different forms of app messaging but it needs to be managed with a clear goal in mind, tracked against the right measurements and reported back as learnings for how to improve going forward.

Emily: Yes, and for some businesses it might mean that an app isn’t the answer at all. There are other ways to create a mobile channel which might make greater sense for your organisation’s needs and goals. Mobile wallet, for instance, is another option. The project DigitasLBi and Urban Airship did with POLITICO Europe around Brexit is a great example of putting user experience ahead of industry pressure to develop an app. Web notifications are another new channel for brands who want to experiment with sending real-time, personalized, notification-style messaging to customers before or instead of building an app.

Read how POLITICO Europe used Urban Airship’s mobile wallet marketing solution Reach in the full case study here.

Q. What about advice for the small mobile departments struggling for more resources or the one “mobile person” tasked with everything?

Sergio: Two things. First, you can’t do everything on your own — especially if mobile is a new channel for your business. Partnerships with the right technology providers, strategic agencies and consultants are crucial. Pick a focus area and then identify who you can outsource to and hire for support.

Second, identify some proof of concepts to get your organisation excited internally and use them to make your agenda known. There is an element of showmanship that the lone “mobile person” who is starved for resources can use to their advantage!

Emily: My advice would be start small and prove the value to the rest of your organisation. What are some quick wins you could use to show the ROI? Can you contribute to a larger high profile campaign within your organisation by personalising one push message for example? Measure the engagement rates and show how it contributed and you’ll be on your way to proving the need for more resources.

Whether you’ve got a mobile team or you’re a team of one, our strategy team would love to chat about how Urban Airship can help you meet your mobile growth goals. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation anytime.