Still, this trend begs the question: Are we prepared for multi-modal means of communicating? Are we using these modes in meaningful ways? In my experiences, I’ve found the larger your organization, the more likely it is that these messaging strategies may be lost in translation. Recently, talking with some industry peers, I was amazed by how little, relatively, they knew about each of these modes.
For example, when SMS messaging is mentioned in conversations with email people, it’s often seen as a stepchild. It’s text, more pervasive commercially in International markets, and can be seen as intrusive in America. That’s nonsense! SMS/MMS offers one of the few push/pull options available in-store, with near-real-time synchronous reply handling for what I like to call “intent”-driven events. If you don’t want to take this mode seriously, it’s likely you won’t survive the Internet of Things phase we are about to go through. Think about all the devices sending signals and the value of alerts/notifications.
In-app vs. push messaging? They aren’t the same. Push messaging has formatting limits and is great to literally “push” or prompt you to do things. It is limited to text and works well for time-sensitive communications (sale alerts, flash sales, geo-targeted messages, breaking news). In-app messaging, has limits as well, since the user is required to have the app opened. But this mode offers more branding opportunities since it allows for more complex messaging, images and even synchronous chat capabilities. In some circles push vs. in-app is called “in-app” and “out-of-app” messaging. If you are asking if one is better than the other, you are asking the wrong question. Which to use when is more appropriate.
Do marketing directors actually draw out journey maps, as fellow Email Insider Loren McDonald wrote about last week? Or is this done in silos in an episodic manner? Not everyone is the Weather Channel, justifying a push notification when the weather changes. Not everyone is an airline or hotel where notifications are valuable and sometimes vital to the customer experience. What about companies that simply want to get their brand in front of customer wherever they are, as often as they can?
This is unlike designing email strategy, where you have succinct opt-in and then a linear lifecycle on the list. For example, mobile messaging has to be looked at as occurring in episodes and done very creatively. The first episode must be thought of as a loyalty rewards program, whose most important stage is “redemption,” when customers realize a value exchange for their behavior (they get upgraded to first class, or get a free rental car with the trip they’re booking, etc.) In the app world, it isn’t just about the download, although that is a major conversion event. If your app is a complement to your brand experience vs. the brand experience itself, the real value point is when consumers use it.
The challenge will be how you coordinate, optimize and measure the impact in terms of stacking effect — but that’s an entirely different subject matter we’ll address another time. I rather liked this video by Urban Airship, which explains a variety of use cases for mobile apps in an easy-to-consume way.