Rethinking Interruption vs. Invitation for Lasting Mobile Relationships

Diane Lee is the Marketing Manager for MXM Mobile (The Hyperfactory), one of the longest-standing, pure play mobile agencies in the world, building best-in-class mobile solutions through integrated mobile strategy, creative, media, execution and analytics. It is part of Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, a full-service, global customer engagement agency, and @mxmmobile on Twitter.

For those of us whose mission it is to make mobile experiences seamless—that is, providing services to on-the-go consumers without being annoying—the most important thing to consider is: What’s going to make them come back to us again and again? At MXM Mobile, we believe in mobility, which goes beyond just the mobile device. It’s about connecting with consumers and giving them the information they want and need, whenever, wherever. Of course, this connection isn’t just physical; it’s emotional, too—thrilling them, delighting them, surprising them with features and functions they didn’t even know they wanted, but are excited to have. The key to this is really getting the consumer. We know them like we know our friends.

At the beginning of each client engagement, we really dig deep and learn all we can about the target audience, thinking about who we know that fits those demographics and asking, “What do they need? How can we make their lives easier and better? How are they using mobile, and with what kinds of phones?” Maybe they’re on a Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5. Maybe they’re on a clamshell from 2004. The point is, we’re going to make it work no matter what.

Mobile advertising vs. mobile engagement: transactions vs. relationships
Many years ago, when we were just a young mobile agency, we focused a lot on creating short-term campaigns that were very cool and won a lot of awards, but didn’t necessarily keep a consumer. They weren’t designed to do so, after all. They were flashes in the pan; a burst of excitement that resulted in huge numbers of downloads or site visits or text messages sent in a very abbreviated period of time. And sure, that counted as success back then, but with the ever-evolving mobile landscape today, our definition of success has changed.

These days, it’s not about the bells and whistles anymore. It’s about utility, entertainment, personalization and the ability to share. Whether it’s a mobile site or full-on application, we need to provide the best user experiences possible and encourage repeat visits/usage. As marketers, we want to grow with the consumer and build a lasting relationship that stands the test of time and device upgrades. So then the question is: How?

Strategies along the continuum of acquisition to conversion and loyalty/lifetime value
Today’s most successful customer relationship management (CRM) strategies focus not on the technology or channel, but on the consumers themselves. When done right, they increase the frequency and longevity of user engagements through relevant, insight-driven experiences. A robust, integrated CRM strategy plans ahead for daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual milestones, yet is flexible enough to expand and change with consumers’ behavior.

Now, say you’ve got your CRM strategy (which ties back to the overall brand marketing strategy), market research, user profiles, competitive intelligence, etc., and your client’s objective is to increase and track brand engagement using mobile. For short and informative (“snackable”) content consumed on the go, you could build a mobile site and, using HTML5/CSS3, even create a very convincing app-like experience. For CRM database acquisition and communication, you could launch an SMS campaign or sweepstakes. For quick but entertaining interactions and promotions, you could build a rich media unit that runs on third-party properties. But, let’s assume we’re building an app and talk about the most obvious way to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds: push notifications.

The key to using push notifications successfully is using them strategically, allowing consumers to personalize the frequency and types of notifications they receive and adapting communications to the consumer over time. For example, we partner with Urban Airship to provide push notifications for Kraft Foods’ iFood Assistant app. There are three different messaging streams users can opt into: Recipe of the Day, Dinner Tonight and special offers. Users choose which days and times they’d like to receive any, all or none of these notifications, which means they’re being engaged when they’re most receptive to such communications. With these kinds of customization options in place, we’ve seen 40–60% of opted-in users opening the app as a direct result of receiving a push notification.

Aside from push, it’s also a good idea to incorporate user feedback (e.g., comments in the app store) into feature or functionality updates. Making your audience feel like they’re part of the app roadmap is a strong driver of ongoing engagement and an indicator of future repeat visits and interactions.

Last but not least, we should be continually learning. The most effective apps evolve over time, and in-app data—e.g., features most/least used—paints a picture of consumers’ perceived value of the app. Extracting insights from this data—in addition to third-party, syndicated or proprietary research—is key to ongoing success and ensuring continual consumer engagement.