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MobileBeat: Blending Channel Lines, Demanding More and the Power of Context

Ragini Bhalla on Storytelling and Content Marketing.

Earlier this month, I headed west to San Francisco for the annual MobileBeat conference. The two-day event, hosted by VentureBeat, focused its central theme around how brands and marketers can drive growth with mobile. To some, this theme may seem too simple or basic. But in my opinion, it pointed to a very common problem among marketers today. So much time is spent overcomplicating and overthinking the approach to mobile marketing that the results are oftentimes lackluster, channel-specific and silo’d. What marketers must do – and still have some resistance to doing – is take the noun out of mobile and invest in creating a seamless, cross-experience that tailors to consumers’ local needs and behaviors first.

This notion – one that our own CMO Jeff Fagel has asked marketers to hear – sprouted up in dozens of panel sessions at the conference. Because the larger goal of attending conferences of this kind is to listen, absorb and learn, I will share three mobile marketing insights that caught my attention and will be of tremendous value to brand marketers over the next several years.

Blending channel lines removes shopping friction.

There’s a common assumption and fear that mobile technology poses a direct threat to in-store sales. But that is just not true. The more retailers let go of this fear (and the panic it unleashes), the more convergence we’ll see between mobile and in-store shopping experiences. This idea that mobile and brick-and-mortar don’t have to butt heads was the central focus of one of the MobileBeat sessions featuring Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Digital and Mobile, Gibu Thomas.

“We are trying to blend the distinction between the channels,” said Thomas. He continued, “We are more about removing friction points from shopping than about channels.” Based on Thomas’ technology-first, customer-first approach to mobile marketing, it’s no wonder 20 percent of products bought from Walmart.com are shipped from Walmart stores.

As we found from our latest mobile marketing research, mobile acts as a conduit for saving money in-store. In fact, “search for a coupon” ranked as the number 1 mobile shopping activity (35.86 percent) among over 13,000 Key Ring app users, ahead of “buy an item online” (12.05 percent). Clearly, blending the channel lines between mobile and in-store will prove effective in removing shopping friction from the experience. Otherwise, as Thomas so eloquently put it, brick-and-mortar retailers have to be prepared to be left behind and ultimately, lose loyal customers and sales across every channel.

Demand more from mobile

Did you know that we unlock our mobile phones 147 times a day? According to Twitter’s Vice President of Global Online Sales, Richard Alfonsi, this “always on, always connected” mobile behavior has directly fueled a need for brand marketers to create more intimate, contextually relevant, locally targeted and personalized experiences and advertising.

Meanwhile, Electronic Arts Senior Manager of Customer Acquisition, John Lorge, wasn’t afraid to tell attendees that despite being a large gaming brand, he’s still very much in a test-and-learn phase to better understand what works with his audience, what doesn’t resonate and how the brand’s audience engages with the brand across each channel. As Lorge said, “It comes down to testing. Test to find what works. If you’re targeting, don’t worry about overlap.”

Context is the name of the game

As I sat in on many panel sessions throughout the two-day conference, there was one session that really caught my attention and provided valuable insights. The session featured notable executives from agencies and ad networks, including Maureen Little from Turn, Gil Elbaz from Factual, Anne Frisbie from inMobi and Katherine Sollers from DigitasLBI.

“Someone’s location says a lot about who they are,” said Turn Senior Vice President, Maureen Little. In response, Factual’s Gil Elbaz stated, “Context is the name of the game.” That is exactly how marketers need to be thinking about location-based targeting. As marketers look to customize and personalize the ways in which they connect and engage with consumers, location-based targeting and mobile technology will play an integral role in generating higher rates of engagement and cross-channel sales.

Because of the immediacy that mobile devices bring to people’s lives, it’s also left marketers with less room and tolerance for irrelevant, poorly targeted experiences and advertising. So when planning your mobile strategy, just remember Elbaz’s battle cry and you’ll be set.

Ragini is the Director of Public Relations and Content, G/O Digital, and a monthly contributor to The Makegood. She brings the PR, communications and content perspective to all things advertising and marketing. Her career background includes entertainment/TV PR and technology/B2B PR and communications.  

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