While most marketers continue to think of mobile as a channel — one that runs somewhat parallel to its Internet presence — a new report from Forrester Research says it’s time to reverse that perspective. “Mobile eliminates the notion of channels by blurring the distinction between the physical and digital worlds,” writes analyst Julie A. Ask. And brands like USAA, using mobile as a way to sell expanded services; Starbucks, which is continually finding new ways to streamline purchasing, or Guinness building passionate beer communities, are finding that “mobile generates new revenue, improves customer relationships and reduces costs throughout all channels.”
But few companies are prepared. Forrester estimates that less than 4% of businesses are ready to take advantage of the opportunity presented by mobile, and even then, fail to take into account its rapidly expanding definition. It’s not just phones, she says, but watches, cuffs, glasses and even lighting systems.
“We still see most of our clients cramming PC experiences onto phones when they should be thinking in terms of mobile moments instead,” she writes. Among the executives it surveyed, 47% planned to spend $500,000 or less externally to build up their mobile services. “This budget barely pays for the analytics, messaging, testing, and marketing solutions on which most enterprises depend.” And only 45% have at least five developers in-house.
The best strategies, she writes, are those that find ways to interact with consumers at specific stages in the six-step customer journey:
*Discover Getting consumers who are not yet customers to engage isn’t easy, but financial brands, such as Intuit or USAA, “manufacture mobile moments by offering consumers tools to manage their finances, cars, and homes — and opportunities to buy new services in those moments.”
*Explore With 43% of American smartphone owners saying they’ve researched a product via their device in the last few months, savvy marketers are finding ways to make mobile research easier, driving total transactions, not just digital sales.
*Buy In 2014, U.S. consumers bought about $24 billion in goods via mobile and used their devices to pay for $52 billion, “whether they are in-store with a mobile-enabled associate, paying remotely, paying bills, or engaging in peer-to-peer payment methods.”
Giving customers mobile access to both pricing and inventory increases their shopping confidence.
*Use Increasingly, consumers expect support through apps, updates and notifications. Basis, for example — a fitness and wellness wearable that gathers information on steps taken, sleep, and heart rate — comes with an app which walks consumers through behavior changes.
*Ask Mobile can be a low-cost self-service tool for customer support, and “is at its best when it streamlines customer interactions, saving them time and saving you money.” One example: American Express uses 7 to resolve potential fraud through an interactive mobile phone experience, instead of a regular voice call. In addition to saving millions in operation expenses, “nine out of 10 consumers gave the experience at least four out of five stars.”
*Engage Sharing reviews, comments, and tips allow customers to create their own communities, fostering brand loyalty and customer passions, like the Guinness Pub Finder app. Mobile extends those communities by making it easier to post photos and videos. Marketers benefit “from crowd-sourced content and a brand affinity that paid media can’t buy.”