Dial M: How Small Businesses Can Tap Into Mobile Marketing to Grow

Mobile PhoneConsumers are using mobiles and handheld devices to interact with organisations so much today it’s a market opportunity you can’t ignore, and it means much more than just whacking a ‘redesign for mobile’ plug-in on your website and hoping for the best.

Smartphones and tablets actually offer far more ways to reach out and grab potential customers, and they often come with a much lower price tag than retooling a web presence.

If you run an SMB or have a low marketing budget, TechRadar’s here to help by rounding up some of the best mobile-specific promotion opportunities.

Call on me

The most obvious technology a handheld device has that neither a laptop or desktop PC does is making calls. James Blews, an online marketing and SEO consultant, has seen clients enjoy an increase in calls when moving from a text based to an image based ‘click to call’ link on websites.

“Probably the most impactful activity was using ‘click to call’ advertising in Google AdWords and Facebook Ads,” he says. “Our price per click value never increased, but the click was a guaranteed phone call.”

The only thing lost when a customer finally calls you is the ‘click path’ that leads to the sale. Kyle Christensen, VP of marketing at call intelligence platform Invoca, says the most successful retailers will optimise for the entire customer journey not just between pages or links, but offline too. “Many of us aren’t equipped to analyse and automate the inbound call experience in the same way we are for clicks,” he says.

Invoca offers you a phone number than lets the customer intelligence continue when the call starts. Code you can add to an ad or page tells you where and when calls originate, identifies keywords that can connect to a specific promotion, and cements the results into metadata that can tell you what is and isn’t working from voice data rather than just click traffic.

Mobile only

One of the other advantages of mobile traffic is that you can tell where your customers are. Even services where individual users haven’t opted in can reveal a wealth of market data.

“Triggers based on weather, geography, stock market, or location can be used easily on mobile devices and don’t need cookies or other identification technology,” says Diaz Nesamoney, CEO of ad platform Jivox.

Mobile first strategy consulting firm Purplegator recently put such an approach into practise. Surveys revealed that a lot of people making the four hour drive from LA to Las Vegas hadn’t booked accommodation before leaving, so the company sent ads for their off-strip hotel client through the Waze directions app and the hotel enjoyed a jump in business.

When we think of mobiles we also tend to think of apps in the smartphone, but some of the most effective tools have been part of the mobile communications infrastructure for much longer.

According to research by the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association, SMS is still far more widely used than apps and data, and that’s a huge market not many companies are tapping nowadays.

75 percent of Americans and 89 percent of Australians’ own a smartphone, but that means three million people in Australia and 80 million in the US are beyond the reach of your cool and expensive mobile website.

But SMS has a low cost, is easy for users to access and action, and can reach everybody. Dimitri Tsitsikas, director of strategic relationships of MessageMedia, also thinks SMS’s true advantage is the attention paid to it by the average user.

He says 97 percent of all SMS marketing messages are opened – 83 percent opened within one hour, whereas many emails received on mobiles are ignored completely. We also retain mobile numbers on our devices for longer than any other contact method.

“After ten years in the business SMS industry I haven’t come across an industry [it] isn’t effective in,” he says. Even when used as appointment reminders, he says SMS reduces attendance failure by 30 percent.

What’s more, 64 percent of respondents to a recent survey would rather text than call for tech support, according to Gigi Peccolo, content manager for cloud communication platform Onereach. One client of the company who adopted messaging for tech support resulted in a 33 percent call reduction overall.

“They did it partly by implementing ‘channel pivot’, which lets users switch from interactive voice response to text by pressing a button on their phone,” Peccolo says. “They could then engage in a conversation over SMS instead of having to wait on hold.”

Future tech

They haven’t taken off in a big way yet, but if you’ve bought a mobile in the last year or two, it’s certain to have near field communications (NFC) and/or radio-frequency identification (RFID) hardware.

But there are early adopters, and they’re seeing real results. The MPact platform, from technology provider Zebra, uses WiFi and Bluetooth to capture analytics in the retail environment.

When customers opt-in to receive updates about products and promotions, the metrics can reveal which aisles and products are most popular and even the purchase history and behaviour (like which section they most visit) of individual shoppers.

Zebra claims just over half of the people they surveyed would opt in to receiving coupons applicable to their location amongst the wares, over 40 percent would use location-based assistance and a little over a third would be happy to receive text messages from staff about product information and availability while they browse.

And with the big pushes behind Apple Pay and Google Wallet, NFC tech might finally be ready to go mainstream. Instead of worrying about browser versions, OS updates and other technical issues, marketers can piggyback the channel direct to consumers, much like they do with apps through the various app stores.

Even users who don’t use Apple Pay will still have the app for it on their phone or iPad, and that allows for a whole new portal for advertising, loyalty programs, promotions and more.

With sales of handheld devices said to have overtaken laptops and PCs this year, it might be the new final frontier in SMB marketing.