This article first appeared as a guest post on the Marketo blog.
If we haven’t said it enough, the era of mobile marketing is among us! At this point, mobile apps are becoming a must-have in every marketing plan. The way mobile apps enable marketers to reach their marketing goals is rapidly evolving, and we are seeing major shifts in mobile marketing tactics this year.
Here are 5 emerging mobile marketing trends for you to take advantage of now.
1. Apps are the new landing page
Today, many mobile agencies will pitch a mobile app as the “website equivalent” on a smaller screen. A mobile app is like your website, with some added marketing advantages such as the ability to send push notifications. In the near future, this view will shift towards the mobile app being the equivalent of a landing page, not a website. A landing page is a single webpage, crafted very carefully for one specific goal within one specific vertical for one specific offering. This is how mobile apps will be perceived within the context of digital marketing. Companies will stop thinking about the overall mobile app for their business. Instead, companies and brands will publish niche mobile apps, with one specific purpose or functionality. A good example is event apps: companies are increasingly using event apps as a way to communicate with customers and partners on their corporate events or tradeshows. The app acts as a personalized communication channel during the event and captures customer interest, which is fed back into the CRM database or marketing automation platform of choice.
2. SMBs discover mobile apps for lead generation and brand awareness
Over the last two years, we have seen successful deployments of mobile-first strategies with quite a few major brands, retailers, airlines, and banks. This trend will expand into SMBs as well. This year, we will see a substantial amount of small and medium size businesses invest in their own mobile app for the purpose of lead generation and brand awareness. The big difference with major brands is that SMBs will have to work harder to push app downloads. Most SMBs, however, will realize that the main KPI is not the number of app downloads, but the quality of active app users. The conversion from app user to customer can be very high compared to other digital marketing channels such as display advertising or social media. A mobile app is a very strategic marketing asset. It’s a permanent presence of your brand on a very personal device of the customer. SMBs that succeed in bringing to market a useful mobile app will be rewarded with new customers and will garner increased awareness with prospects.
As an example, think about a B2B manufacturer of insulation material for the construction industry. By publishing a smart app that calculates required insulation thickness for all types of walls and ceilings, workers and engineers on a construction site will have an instant benefit in downloading and using the app. The manufacturer could market this app as a niche tool for workers, contractors, and architects, beyond the scope of its own customer base. Obviously, the app can be used to promote the insulation products of the manufacturer, and the app could even indicate the savings for one specific project compared to competitors. And in a next phase, the app could be linked to an online ordering system, allowing mobile ordering of products.
3. Mobile customer service becomes mainstream
This year, large enterprises will make their customer service accessible via a mobile app. This will make it possible for customers to reach the helpdesk or follow up on their service requests on the go. Customer service in a mobile app has the benefit of being context-aware. For example, the location of the customer can be transferred automatically to a call center agent, e.g. a road assistance service. So instead of explaining his whereabouts to an agent, trying to find his customer number, and holding the phone, pen, and paper at the same time, the customer can now simply press a button inside the mobile app and talk to an agent directly, and in his own language. The agent will have all customer details in front of her when the call or chat session initiates. “Hello sir, a tow truck is 20 minutes from your current location and is now on the way”.
On top of that, a customer service mobile app can be used to capture and exchange various types of additional relevant information from and to the customer. For example, a Telco could provide a customer service app that assists customers in configuring their router at home. The app could use the smartphone camera to take a picture of the blinking lights on the router and to scan the barcode of the device. These pictures are then transferred to the call center agent for live assistance: “I see that the red light is blinking on your router; please connect the blue cable first”.
4. Brands start to experiment with mobile marketing automation
Large brands may have already launched their mobile apps; for most of them this will be the year to introduce mobile marketing automation. While marketing automation is quite popular, applying the concept for mobile apps is very new. Marketing automation allows companies to build user profiles based on what people look at on their website and social networks and then respond to the users activity. Marketers can then use those profiles to personalize emails or website content. That’s where mobile marketing automation platforms come into play. Mobile marketing automation platforms build user profiles, based on user activity in a mobile app. These user profiles can then be used to send personalized push notifications to app users, based on their current context and location. For example, a retailer can deliver a personal offer to a consumer when she is near a store: “Hi Annie, 10% off on sunglasses, 5 minutes from here. We’re open until 6PM!”
The bigger picture here is that mobile marketing automation allows retailers and brands to engage with their customers across channels, from website to smartphones and tablets. And communication can now occur across the customer journey: at home, on the road, and in-store. Cross-channel or omni-channel marketing finally becomes a reality, as specialized mobile marketing automation platforms integrate with the traditional marketing automation capabilities.
5. Established companies put mobile apps at the core of their product or service
Last but not least, this year we will see new products and services being announced, where a mobile app is at the core of the product. Companies will not just use mobile apps as a new marketing channel; instead the mobile app will be the product. And we are talking about brick & mortar businesses, not just the Ubers of the world.
A good example is the car insurance industry. Some insurance companies are launching mobile apps that use the sensors of the smartphone to detect the customer’s driving behavior. Are you a safe driver? Great! The app will reward you à la gamification, which could include a reduction on your car insurance fee. Or, are you a less than safe driver who is texting while driving and going over the speed limit more often than not? The app will create awareness and support the customer in adjusting his driving behavior.
Each industry will have its own innovators that dramatically change how customers interact with their business. The app will be a differentiator that puts these innovating companies far ahead of the competition. It’s clear that by the end of 2015, we will see a dramatic increase in marketing budgets for mobile-first strategies. Let the mobile race begin!