How to drive customer engagement via mobile

Unlike any other digital device, mobile phones – especially smartphones – have entrenched themselves in so many parts of our lives, both online and offline. This is perhaps unsurprising, given we take our mobile phones everywhere with us, and typically have a pretty close relationship with them.

Recent statistics show to what extent the smartphone is already impacting our on- and offline shopping experiences, and this provides retailers and mobile marketers potentially very fertile ground for driving customer engagement via mobile.

According to Google’s Our Mobile Planet data, 28% of South African smartphones users say they take their smartphones along with them to compare prices and inform themselves about products while shopping. 26% have changed their mind about buying a product or service while in-store, based on the information they discovered using their smartphones. And, this behaviour extends to online shopping as well: 27% of South African smartphone users have changed their mind about buying a product or service online as a result of info they have gathered using their smartphone.

Only 15% of South African smartphone users have used mobile coupons for shopping in-store however, so it seems we have a long way to go when it comes to proactively engaging with customers via their smartphones.

Here are five suggestions for driving customer engagement via mobile:

1. Go online

Far too many retailers in South Africa barely have an adequate desktop internet site, not to mention mobile site (a PDF of a brochure does not constitute an adequate online presence). Not only should product or service information be easily available online, with pricing and contact information, the site should be mobile optimised for the smartphone users searching for product and pricing information on-the-fly (take a look at how Gap tripled its conversion rates with its m-commerce site). Based on the data above, it is clear that consumers are going to walk out your store, or pick up a competitor product off the shelf, if they can get better information online, via their smartphone, from your rival.

2. Be clever about QR codes

QR codes have received a fair bit of bad press recently, but I am tending to agree with the opinion that this is because they have been poorly implemented, rather than the lack of any intrinsic marketing value in the technology itself. The concept is still relatively new, with best practices and comparative data still emerging, but used right could be a very powerful way of driving customer engagement via a mobile device. Marketers need to think through their QR code campaigns a bit better for this to happen, including how the campaigns are constructed, the content provided by the barcode, and the follow-ups and calls to action.

3. Build a mobile community

We’ve been all about online communities for the last few years, but it’s obvious that with so many “mobile-first” and “mobile-only” internet users out there, mobile communities are going to be crucial to engaging with customers. Brands such as Guinness are doing interesting things with mobile communities in Nigeria via Motribe – and it would be fascinating to see how this has impacted Guinness’s customer engagement in that market.

4. Don’t forget about the feature phones

It’s definitely not all about smartphones, especially in South Africa, where more basic phones still comprise 85% of the market. This will change, with more affordable smartphones coming online, but feature phone users are unlikely to ever disappear completely. Here, the humble SMS can be very effective in driving customer engagement, as long as your campaign – as with QR codes – is well-planned, shares interesting and diverse information, and has a strong and clear call to action.

5. Make mobile coupons easy and worthwhile

Our Mobile Planet says 54% of SA smartphone users wouldn’t mind receiving ads if they received rewards or freebies. But only 15% have used a coupon to buy a product in-store. Now while South Africa doesn’t have as strong a coupon culture as America does, it has been my experience that all too often mobile coupons are too complicated, have too many catches or are just not easy to use. But the stats seem to indicate that some work here could go a long way to driving customer engagement.

First published in Vomo.