Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tracking Mobile Responders

I work for an interactive marketing service provider. We provide both software-as-a-service as well as strategic marketing and creative services. Not too long ago, the email marketing manager from one of our clients, a well-known retail brand, asked me about optimizing mobile emails for Blackberries. "Why Blackberries," I asked her. Apparently the corporate bosses thought it would be cool to see the emails they are sending to their subscribers within their own mobile devices.

Recently we began tracking the responses from our clients' email subscribers in a new way. Using open source information that we subsequently improved upon, we are able to identify the email clients that subscribers use at the time of opening an HTML-formatted email or when clicking a link within the email. Knowing the email client with a certain degree of confidence gives us insight into the percentage of email responders that are doing so from their mobile devices. We also know the manufacturer of these mobile devices.

In my recent data analysis, out of a total of 67 million individuals, about 1% of the subscribers are viewing their emails on a mobile device. Out of the 60 known mobile device manufacturers that we currently know about, more than 80% of the mobile responders use either an iPhone(43%), Blackberry(25%), or SonyEricsson(15%).

Mobile responders being only 1% of our population of email recipients may seem like the bottom news story of the day. But over half a million people should not be ignored - both in terms of their actions and their type of mobile device.

So, to finish up the story that I began this blog with, I advised our client that though the corporate bosses were using their corporate mobile devices, their subscribers were not. In fact, subscribers viewing this brand's emails on iPhones outnumbered the Blackberry viewers by a margin of more than two to one. My recommendation: optimize mobile emails for the device that the majority of their mobile responders were using - in this case, the iPhone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Social Networking On the Go

It appears that social networking is now the #1 mobile web destination according to a recent research report. The data collected and published by Openwave indicate that Facebook and MySpace are the two top mobile search terms on both Google and Yahoo. The latest study from Nielsen shows that member communities and email are a close 4th and 5th place of global Internet activity (66.8% and 65.1% respectively). However, the same report shows that member community and email showed the two highest growth in 2008 (5.4% and 2.7% respectively). These two studies indicate a high convergence between the mobile and the social networking worlds.

I totally get this convergence because mobile and social are two worlds where people are choosing to spend a lot of their time now. For many people in the world, their mobile devices are the only ways that they are accessing the Internet. No wonder also that Facebook is extending their Connect API to the iPhone.

Will social networking replace email, as one headline asks? Look. Just because there are more sheep than journalists doesn't mean that sheep will be replacing journalists any time soon. Social networking and email are two different communication channels meant for different types of communication. Social Networking is all about airing your laundry in public. Email is a point-to-point communication technology therefore you would naturally chose one over the other depending upon what you want to say - and to whom you want to say it. That having been said, they are highly complementary as well. It is quite common now to receive an email whose content is so good that you'd want to share it with your friends by posting it to your social page - just like you'd share an article from a news web site.

The mobile device is growing in worldwide popularity as the launch platform of choice to the Internet. A surprisingly high percentage of Facebook and MySpace members access these sites from their mobile devices. Next to search, email is the #2 Internet activity on mobile devices. It's high time for marketers to step up and facilitate the bridging of the gap between these two mobile activities. For starters, interactive marketers - this includes email marketers and social media marketers - need to develop mobile-friendly email content that can be easily read on a mobile device and then shared (from said mobile device) to a social site. A lot of people use their mobile devices to triage their email inbox for later reading from a desktop computer. I've seen many a man sitting in the Husband's Chair at Macy's culling his inbox while waiting for the Missus to try on her forty-seven different outfits. (I know 'cause I'm there in the Husband's Chair too.) Give him meaningful and mobile-friendly content that he can immediately recognize the value of so that he can then share it with his Facebook friends. A simple and easy way to extend your brand.

If you want to know more about great social networking strategies, go visit my colleague's blog on Blogspot.

Do you have a favorite social site that isn't Facebook? Let me know what it is and what you like about it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mobile Marketing in a Recession

For those of you who've just recently returned from the "Lost" island, we are in a global economic cool-down. An interesting shift in consumer behavior has started and analysis of this change is starting to make its rounds in the press. According to a recent article in USA Today, online searches that include value words such as "coupons" rose 161% in December versus 2007. Google says that ad spending on value-related words such as coupons rose 30% in the fourth quarter over the same period a year earlier.

Comscore (cited in the USA Today article) also notes that online coupon sites are the number two most important online sites (next to search engines, of course) to consumers when shopping in the past 3 months. Slightly over 50% of consumers say they are using coupons more often due to the hardened economic times.

Maybe it's because of the way I was raised, maybe it's because it's in my DNA, or maybe it's both: I use coupons. I have no problems using coupons for items that I would normally buy. I also have been known to buy because of a coupon. To me, not using a coupon is like leaving money on the table. A dollar off a roll of toilet paper not meaningful to you? Let's put it a different way. Suppose you saw a dollar bill laying on the floor of the toilet paper aisle in the store. Would you leave it there or would you nonchalantly pick it up? The only problem with coupons is that they are required at the point of redemption. So if I forget to bring my coupon along, no joy.

Just as digital cameras and cell phones formed an alliance that changed the world, it appears that coupons and cell phones are forming an alliance that will have similar behavior-changing effects. For example, Domino's Pizza recently announced that they have selected Air2Web to be their sole provider for their new mobile coupon campaigns. This partnership totally makes sense to me. According to the Food Marketing Institute, paper coupon usage has declined 40% in the last few years due to lack of immediacy and the manual effort of clipping. But due to the benefits of mobile devices that we all know about, coupons have a brand new life.

The advantage of mobile couponing is multi-fold. First, mobile devices are highly personal so this means highly personalized and highly relevant coupons. Second, we all take our mobile devices with us wherever we go - so you're never without your coupons. And third, both SMS and mobile-friendly email present a highly interactive medium from which marketers can analyze the performance of their discount campaigns.

So...are you a Coupon Clipper like me? Come forth, Brother! Come on down, Sister and testify. Give me your feedback. I'd like to hear from you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How To Build Your Worldwide Customer Base

The industry trends are indicating that mobile broadband is on pace to become the Number One means of accessing the Internet worldwide. A recent publication from the International Telecommunications Union (as reported by the Associated Press) says that six in ten people worldwide now have cell phone subscriptions, indicating that mobile phones are the communication technology of choice - especially among developing nations. One of the fastest growing areas is in mobile broadband subscriptions.

There are two reports - both published by Forrester Research - that I find interesting as well. A mail survey fielded in February and March 2008 of 61,033 US and Canadian households and individuals ages 18 and older reported that about 7% of these individuals used their mobile devices for Search. Another survey of 5,400 US and Canadian individuals ages 18 to 88 in August 2008 reported that 75% of these individuals used their mobile devices for Search. What would account for this huge difference? A different sampled population? Perhaps. But even so, these two surveys taken at different dates do indicate that Search has risen to be one of the top activities that people do with their mobile devices.

Oh by the way...did you also read that the iPhone is the Number One mobile browsing platform commanding a huge 66% marketshare?

So what does this all mean? It means that a substantial population of customers have their first contact with your brand via a mobile device. So, Mr. and Ms. Marketer: do you have a mobile strategy? Do you have plans in place to welcome these mobile first-contact people to your brand?

Here's some ideas for you:

(1) A really simple mobile-friendly web home page
Don't mess with WAP - just use HTML that is formatted for the small screen. Starting with the iPhone and every mobile device thereafter, mobile web browsers are now standard.

(2) Get yourself listed in Google Maps for mobile devices
You'd be surprised how many people would benefit from knowing about your services just because you're close by to where they are or where they want to be. Also, include the URL to your mobile-friendly home page, not the URL to your main site's home page.

(3) Invite visitors to your mobile site to sign up for email newsletters
Opt-in email marketing is the most effective means of customer relationship management. After they've given you their subscription permission, send them mobile-friendly emails. These are just HTML-formatted emails that are right sized for the smaller screen. Give them timely and relevant offers. Mobile emails are THE perfect vehicle for coupons, for example.

The nice thing about opt-in emails is that you now have plenty of opportunity to engage in a meaningful communication with these people and gradually acquaint them with your products and services.

And speaking of email, I'm disappointed that most of the blog posts I've read on Mobile Marketing are predominantly written by folks with backgrounds in brand marketing and in direct marketing. I've not (yet) read anything written by anyone with a background in email marketing. This dearth of information is a shame since email marketing is still the best real-time direct-response marketing channel.

(4) While you're at it, invite visitors to your mobile site to sign up for text messaging alerts
There's a reason why these people found you via their mobile devices. Engage with them the way that they naturally engage with their world.

There ya go. It's all about maximizing the experience at point of first contact. Very simple, very easy to do and best of all, it won't cost you a lot in terms of time or money.

Email Marketers: I want to hear from you! How are you integrating mobile and email into your marketing mix?