Mobile best practices: engagement and the customer experience

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CMO Council Report: Getting in Sync with Mobile Customers, Best Practices in Engaging Mobile Customers.Recent CMO Council research on getting in sync with mobile customers surfaced several key findings with enough significance that I wanted to explore each on in its own blog post. As was the case with objectives & context, and challenges & metrics, the idea of engagement and the customer experience is of pivotal importance to marketers as they consider the implications of mobile in how they approach their work as marketers.

It’s undeniable that mobile is changing in how consumers engage with organizations and brands because mobile is changing how they think, feel and behave as they go about their lives. It’s been well documented in this blog and elsewhere that consumers are now empowered – that idea formed initially around the advent of social media. And since mobile is intertwined with social media, mobile has deepened and magnified that empowerment (tablets and smartphones in particular).

Now, as connected devices grow in popularity (the “Internet of Things”), the catalyzing role of mobile in how it’s impacting marketing is only accelerating. And it doesn’t spell doomsday for marketing, but it does mean changes in customer engagement that compel marketing to evolve their mindset and making use of data and analytics to personalize engagements. The CMO Council research provided glimpses into best practices forming around those ideas.

What’s happening with customer engagement
Let’s begin with the notion of engagement and what it means to marketers. I’ll cut to the chase, and put this thought out there:

Consumers are now customer-centered.

Yes, people have always been self-centered (customer-centered if you will), but what’s different is their empowerment. So it’s more like they are CUSTOMER-CENTERED (not a statement but a SHOUTED truth). They have the ability to instantly flit to your competitors (sometimes while standing in your own stores, as in “showrooming”), or pull peer reviews in real-time (literally in the palm of their hands) and poll their friends on social media directly from their mobile device. Consider a hypothetical customer dispute in your New Jersey store. Now it can affect sales in Florida, Minnesota and anywhere your New Jersey customer has friends. And trust me, it will – and it will ripple even more widely than social media via review sites.

So back to the notion of engagement. All of the above in that hypothetical situation in New Jersey are forms of engagement in the mind of your customer. It’s about engagement with your brand - and sadly less and less of engagement is under your control, so no matter how well your email campaigns support your new web pages and your Facebook posts, nor how your contact center is trained with the new messages, none of it matters if any of it is at odds with what your customers actually experience. Engagement is now all about the customer experience – and it has to be seen through the lenses of your customers.

What you can do about it
The simple answer is that you need to make your marketing customer-centered. Of course, that’s way easier said than done, but it’s absolutely essential. And you have to look no further than the hands of your customers and where their eyes are focused to understand what customer-centered marketing might look like. In that regard, mobile is magnifying the changes being driven by digital marketing.

Marketing today is about good content that’s searchable and can be shared that drives positive customer experiences, and in the words of digital anthropologist Brian Solis, experiences that are worthy of sharing. It’s about messages that have been researched and vetted to be relevant to your target market, and then surfaced on the media that matter to your audience. Their tone and timbre should stir emotions that enhance the customer journey in ways that the story of the customer becomes entwined with the story that your marketing content is telling. And where your marketing story is being told matters, too – for instance, not all markets are active on social media, so the key is to find out where your customers are active and adjust how you try to engage accordingly.

Best practices to emulate: Engagement
The CMO Council research revealed a few recurring themes regarding engagement, and the common denominator is an underlying acknowledgement that customers do not want to be marketed to. What they need and want is to have answers available when needed and in the format and medium that suits them best.

  • Lauren Chewning, VP of Consumer Insights at Marriott International acknowledged that consumers in their industry are using mobile not just to book rooms, but also for peer recommendations and simply to get things done – check in, check out, and order services while on-property.
  • At Dell, Executive Director of B2B Global Marketing Kevin Green, shared an indicator of how broadly they are considering mobile engagement, with approximately 40 native applications available globally through a wide variety of app stores.
  • Nathan Clapton, Head of Mobile Partnerships at TripAdvisor described how they’ve made accommodations to their mobile site that has more to do with being attuned to what customers need and want to do, and less to do with how they want to market to customers. For example, to counter lower mobile conversion rates, they changed the format of their hotel prices to appear in a meta-search engine, making it possible to check different hotel prices in a single window. In addition, customers can book hotels directly on the TripAdvisor site rather than sending them off to another site, hopefully making the engagement smoother for the customer.
  • At The Home Depot, Michael Hibbison, Vice President of Integrated Media shared how they engage with customers via mobile in two primary ways – through their app and on the mobile web. Using the app enables Home Depot to offer a more personalized shopping experience, but they also work to ensure that customers without their app have a mobile-optimized experience as well.

Best practices to emulate: Customer Experience
The customer experience best practices uncovered in the CMO Council research revealed a shift in mindset focused not simply on the customer, but what the customer actually experiences. Doing that requires an attention to detail and an understanding of how internal processes, guidelines and procedures might ripple out to the customer with unintended consequences.

  • At Western Union, SVP of Marketing Laston Charriez detailed how they currently create different experiences for the different devices its customers use. Mobile content is optimized first, and other digital campaigns follow suit based on the experience the company wants to create.
  • Marriott’s Chewning noted that they’ve launched mobile check-in across their signature Marriott Hotels brand globally to make that process more seamless for customers. It’s also about gathering as much data as possible so they can enhance the customer’s overall experience, such as knowing where their customers are going, how they’re getting there and who is traveling with them.
  • Nathan Clapton at TripAdvisor shared the degree to which the customer experience is core to their approach in how they developed a feature called Point Me There, which brings up a compass and arrow so the customer can immediately know which direction to start walking in. In addition, TripAdvisor recently integrated with Uber, which allows users to pinpoint a location on a map, find out how long it will take to get there, and then launch the Uber app to call a driver.
  • At Men’s Wearhouse, Robert Pearson, Director of Digital Marketing said that the company is also evolving how they create experiences from a geo-locational standpoint. Their goal is to engage customers before they actually begin shopping and then customize their experience as much as possible through their app. In addition, they want to use data to improve customer experiences seamlessly across their loyalty program, in-store visits and across the various ways customers engage with their brand.

It’s not by coincidence that emerging best practices in mobile such as these involve a shift to customer centricity, as well as a recognition that the digital nature of mobile platforms bring with them an opportunity to capture customer data and use analytics to tailor customer experiences.

These engagement and customer experience practices and many more are detailed in the CMO Council report, titled Getting in Sync with Mobile Customers: Best Practices in Engaging Mobile Customers. It’s well worth your time to register and download this report. The next and final post in this series will address the importance of the mobile-first attitude and alignment.

Until then, let me know what you think. And as always - thank you for following!

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About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm + John Balla. I’m a digital content strategist here at SAS, and co-founder and former Editor of this blog. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome teenagers, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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