Mobile Retail: finally getting in on the act?

It was only a month ago that Marks and Spencer became the first UK high street retailer to launch a fully comprehensive, commerce-based mobile site. Besides Amazon, most other retailers have focussed on apps, or nothing at all for their mobile offereing.

However a recent article about a discussion from 5 CIOs of retailers shows that they clearly understand the limit of apps (no one opens them) and that mobile require their own specific sites.

So, it looks like retailers will finally get on board this year and produce some decent, mobile focussed sites that actually allow us to buy stuff!

ISP Mobile Marketing Conference

I was flattered to be asked to chair the Institute of Sales Promotion‘s Mobile Marketing Conference last week. There was some excellent input from brands including Coca Cola, Orange, Barclaycard and Westfield, along with an agency panel including Ogilvy, Saatchi X (no relation to Malcolm X) and BD Group.

I haven’t seen a report from the conference, so here are a few thoughts from where I was sitting (which was right next to the speakers).

The audience consisted of brands and agencies of various sizes. Although brands many had looked at mobile marketing, few were actively involved with it. Coca Cola are one brand that has been ahead of the game in mobile marketing and sales promotions. What I thought was good about the brand was their focus on engagement rather than technology. Their Sprite/Fanta campaign from last year was the most interesting. They offered UK customers 50p mobile top ups by simply texting a code on the ringtab to a shortcode number. The result was 1/2 a million redemptions.

Barclaycard were interesting, if a little bit corporate in their approach. The focus was on contactless payment systems. The company believe that within 10 years we will all be using contactless payment systems (or NFC) and most of that will be through our phones. With a bit of help from MIG, they also showed an AR app (technically though, it is a location app) which pointed to the nearest contactless payment retailers and cash points. There was something of a vague answer to a question of whether they would include vouchering as part of the contactless system. After all if you can take a payment one way, surely it would make sense to go the other way and put vouchers on to RFID phones? It seemed that Barclaycard had no plans to offer it.

Orange speaker, Steve Ricketts was the most relevant of all the presentations, using the Exposure and Exposure 2 studies to show that the greatest area of interest for mobile marketing from consumers was vouchering and discounts. Orange Wednesday is a great example of how mobile vouchering is successful, and has changed consumer perceptions by making Wednesday one of the most popular days to attend the cinema. Steve also announced that Orange will be bringing out contacless payment phone, in conjunction with Barclaycard this year. However, he wouldn’t be pressed on which handset that would be (and I did ask him).

A panel session from creative agencies including Ogilvy, Saatchi X and BD Network, looked at the creative challenges for the mobile marketing sector. The discussion moved to the operators role and away from the purely creative challenges. It was notable that the agencies all saw apps, especially iphone apps as the most creative application for mobile. This was somewhat at odds with the rest of the speakers at the event, who felt they had a place, but probably a nice one.

The stars of the day were David Glennie and Tim Dunn from service provider Mobile Interactive Group who were also event sponsors. David is mobile’s answer to Eddi Izzard, providing a hilarious but informative look at apps, and to some extent their ultimate pointlessness. Tim bravely (and successfully) did some live app demos, including an AR app where he shot at helicopeters hovering above the audience.

In summing up, I picked out a few key themes from the day. Outside of the creative agencies, the theme of simplicity and user engagement came over time and again. As always with mobile, the speakers stressed the need to develop campaigns that were relevant to users in a highly personal marketing channel.

Mobile apps worth $29.5 billion by 2013

According to a Gartner report, mobile apps will generate over $6 in revenues in 2010, rising to a massive 26 billion downloads worth $29.5 billion by 2013. That’s even accounting for the fact that 80% will be free downloads. Significantly mobile advertising will represent a good portion of that revenue. This year it will be $0.6 billion or 10% but in three years time it will represent 25% of the total revenues.

What this clearly suggests is that the way forward for mobile advertising is through apps. Given that 90% of mobile apps are opened once or never at all, the next thing is to get people to actually use them.

Apple have already sold 3 billion apps through their store, and according to estimates, they have made over $2 billion from those downloads. Nice work if you can get it.

Top 10 Mobile Apps: is this really the future?

Gartner has produced a list of Top 10 Consumer Mobile applications for 2012. Unfortunately the list is extremely disapointing and fails to provide much insight.

Predicting the future is always difficult. One solution is to offer very vague predictions, which is how Gartner have approached it. Some of their list represents services rather than applications as such. Take location based services (LBS). They are rarely an end in themselves but a service within applications. What’s more, I don’t see how that is the future … LBS is already here and widely used with apps.

Another questionable prediction is the increase in mobile music. The iphone was launched very much with music in mind, as were various Sony Ericsson’s and Nokia phones. Yet it hasn’t taken off. Gartner suggest that the payment model is part of the reason, and that with changes in the way music is sold, the market will take off. That simply doesn’t make sense to me. Music downloads took off with itunes. Paid music. Since then other download brands, such as Spotify have re-defined the way that music downloads are purchased. So, there have been plenty of opportunities to shift this into the mobile channel. Yet this hasn’t happened. The reason, I believe is simple. We are generally happy with downloading through our PCs and we will only switch to mobile if there is a sufficient benefit in doing so.
If I look at my own music habits for example, I use itunes on my PC as the central music manager. Some of it is purchased through online stores (including itunes), but much of it is ripped from CDs. Once in itunes I can do many things with it: burn it to CD to play in the car, put it on my iphone and put it on my (old) ipod which is now linked to a set of speakers and my alarm clock. Downloading through my iphone is a pain. For starters my PC has a fast, reliable internet connection – something I cannot get with a mobile data connection. After that I have to get the track back into itunes and on to CDs, the ipod etc. In short, I am happy with my current music management arrangements and don’t see any reason to change.

So, when it comes to Gartner’s predicitions I am very dubious about a number of them. I would agree with them on the payments and NFC side of things however. That is an area to watch out for.

Top 10 Ways to Utilise Mobile Marketing

Mobile offers a variety of channels for marketing – SMS, MMS, Mobile Internet, Bluetooth and Apps. Without doubt, SMS remains king, but marketers are looking at a whole range of methods for marketing to their audience. The following is a brief guide to the 10 best ways to engage through mobile marketing:

1. Customer relationship marketing

When companies first approach mobile marketing they typically think of customer acquisition as the main aim. However, the best place to start is often with existing customers, to improve relationships and uplift.
Once mobile marketing has been developed through existing customers then the move to acquisition is much easier.

2. Ticketing and Vouchering

Simply sending a promotional message is not the most effective way to engage customers. Vouchering and ticketing offer some excellent opportunities for a simple, yet compelling offer. It is cheap, simple and easily redeemable.

3. Mobile Sites

Few companies have a mobile site, thinking few people will browse it. In reality mobile users will browse your web site through their phone. Surely it’s better to ensure that the site is actually optimised for the mobile user to offer the clearest, simplest and best experience.

4. Apps

This year has been all about apps, and iphone apps in particular. Mobile applications offer an excellent way to engage customers. Generally the most successful marketing apps have been utilities to engage customers – from BA’s fight times, to Nike’s training apps – they offer the best opportunity for sophisticated marketing campaigns.

5. Bluetooth Marketing

Bluetooth proximity marketing is finally coming of age. Good hardware combined with powerful management software means that sending rich content to mobile users in situ is a real possibility. Recent Bluetooth campaigns have shown a high level of take up by mobile users.

6. Text to win/text voting

This old classic has shown it’s resilience and continues to offer potential. The recent Walker’s SMS campaign saw over 1 million responses.

7. QR

Although it hasn’t entirely taken off, Quick Recognition codes have resulted in some successful campaigns: Pepsi’s QR offer this year saw a large response, as well as campaigns by car manufacturers such as BMW and Volvo.

8. Appointment Reminders

It’s simple, but effective. If a business relies on people turning up to appointments, then SMS has been shown to significantly improve turn up rates – from health and beauty, through to the motor trade, it is a simple way to bring in more customers.

9. Location Services

LBS has never really shown it’s true potential due to issues of privacy and cost of delivery. However, location apps, such as Last Minute’s NRU, have shown how location-based information can bring real marketing benefits.

10. UGC and Social Media

It’s not all one way traffic! Encouraging, even incentivising users to submit their own content whether through mobile internet, SMS or Bluetooth is the future for mobile marketing. Mobile Social Media, from twitter to facebook offer true long term potential.