To date there have been three seminal moments in my mobile life, and together they show just how far the mobile world has come.
The first was in the early ‘90s when I used one for the first time. I was working at Toyota and borrowed a brick-sized mobile phone off someone at the agency while on a TV shoot. It weighed a ton and the lender looked traumatised as no doubt the call cost a fortune back then - but I felt like the dog’s b******s to be using such a state of the art piece of technology, probably just to tell someone in Dom Joly style that I was on a shoot.
The second was when I sent my first text in 1997 to announce we’d moved house - to the amazement of the recipients who had never seen one before, giving me great kudos. Then this year I paid my tax bill using the First Direct app on my iPhone; it made me feel right down with the kids.
The humble mobile has become so much more than a phone - it’s a life support system, so diverse are its applications. For instance, they can be used to measure heart rate and blood pressure to help people with hypertension keep on track.
In Kenya, over 50% of the population uses a text based phone service called m-Pesa which enables them to have payments made direct to their mobile and to pay for things too. This has revolutionised life for millions of people who would usually not be able to get a bank account and for whom robbery is a daily threat. Masai warriors take their phones with them when they’re selling cattle at market, and it’s then easy for them to buy what they need to take back to their homes.
For the average Joe the mobile may have created more life-enhancing opportunities, rather than life-saving ones - we can watch films, do our grocery shopping on the bus, check emails on the khazi (if you’re desperate!) and do battle with a bunch of green pigs.
But if you add up the myriad of ways in which we use our mobiles, they have created something that we can no longer do without. Try going out without your mobile, you feel naked, vulnerable, like driving a car without a seat belt.
We have become totally dependent on (or addicted to) our mobiles, with a recent survey showing that one in five young adults would rather starve for 24 hours than go without their phone.
With the difficult economy a long term reality, our love affair with mobiles is only going to get deeper as their entertainment value and the way in which they help us keep close to our friends become increasingly important.
This means that mobile phones are opening up incredible opportunities for marketers to get closer to their customers and develop much more meaningful relationships; mCRM is the new customer relationship marketing - using mobiles as a way to find out more about what our customers are interested in, talk to them in a more informed way and engage with a much richer experience. But what does mCRM look like in practice?:
With half of all local searches carried out on mobiles, local mCRM is going to be big. We can acquire customers through QR codes in-store or on posters which incentivise them to register (so you can collect data) and welcome them with a locally redeemable offer. To keep people coming back we can send relevant offers via mobiles as customers walk past one of your outlets.
Gamification helps in the development and retention of customers locally through games that reward and give customers a reason to return again and again, eg, Wetherspoons repays customer loyalty by giving 20% off food for the person who checks in most often at a pub branch via social gaming platform Foursquare.
With more engagement on Facebook and Twitter happening via mobile than any other device, social media is a powerful way to encourage comment and sharing - especially in relation to consumer multiscreening, or using TV and mobile devices simultaneously as 78% of us now do.
Integrating social media into TV advertising and programme sponsorship within your CRM strategy can create brand advocates and retain customers close to your brand even when they’re not in the purchasing funnel so that your brand is top of mind when they are.
Consumers are inherently curious and mobiles are the easiest way for them to find out more about products or services. As they search, they are demonstrating brand interest and can be nurtured and developed into customers much more quickly than through conventional media channels.
QR codes and ‘sound tagging’ technology are obvious here - offering something appealing to see or hear so customers can scan/tag to find out more.
PayPal has just launched ‘Shop and Pay On-the Go’ which enables consumers to instantly pay for products via their smartphone - so retailers can remain ‘open’ 24/7 if they display product-related QR codes in their shop windows or on posters.
Tesco is also going down this route, testing the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store at Gatwick Airport where travellers bought from virtual fridges with their smartphones - so their groceries could arrive at home as they did.
Picture recognition and augmented reality (AR) are also offering exciting mCRM opportunities. For example, people who buy coffee machines want to know how to make the perfect cup of coffee. So, as part of the welcoming process, a coffee machine brand could give registered purchasers the opportunity to hold their phone over their new machine and watch a video showing them how.
Most consumers are curious to know if they’re getting the best deal and over 20% of smartphone users have changed their mind about a product in-store as a result of information found on their phone.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Tesco and John Lewis have understood that, rather than blocking in-store price-checking, they embrace it, and so they offer free Wi-fi. It’s better for retailers to be part of the process so they have the chance to retain the sale, perhaps offering their own price-checker app which also provides product reviews (if facilitated by AR technology to provide rich, informative content that brings the product to life, so much the better) and also facilitating the purchasing process. Instant serving of mobile coupons, loyalty points and pricematching can help too.
As texting by a brand can be deemed intrusive, be careful. However, if texts are relevant, added value service messages, they can be a powerful way to build customer relationships through emotional engagement.
That’s why British Gas created its Appointment Reminder Service which uses SMS to send reminders in advance of an appointment, with options to reschedule. Its implementation led to a huge reduction in appointment related in-bound calls and it has improved customer satisfaction and brand perception.
What’s to come?
With NFC technology (payment via mobile devices) bubbling under, the opportunities for mCRM are set to grow exponentially in the UK.
The latest EE ad with Kevin Bacon shows someone in the pub buying pork scratchings with their phone and we’re certainly heading that way. Never before have we had a channel that enables marketers to get up so close and personal with customers and find out more about them wherever they are at any time of the day - even in bed (where many of us do our browsing apparently).
Of course we must be careful to get permission to communicate first, and treat that permission sensitively. However, get it right and mCRM offers an open door to the always on consumer.