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The Rise of Mobile Marketing Automation

4 min

Contextualization is the new panacea for the marketing industry. How can we personalize? How can we stay relevant? How can we engage the customer where it counts? A recent answer comes in response to the fever-pitch popularity of mobile devices and smartphones.

Recent data from Pew Research indicates that 90 percent of American adults now have mobile phones, and 30 percent regularly use them to decide whether or not to visit local businesses such as stores and restaurants—a golden opportunity for marketers to contextualize digital engagement. 

Though marketing automation itself is still not widely adopted, developers from major platforms like Salesforce and Adobe are already exploring the uncharted waters of mobile marketing automation (MMA). At the moment, the MMA market is only 1.5 percent penetrated, but a VentureBeat Insight report projects growth will double or even triple this year.

Brands are desperate to make themselves matter in an era of overabundant information, and MMA could be a viable solution for delivering targeted, context-specific messages.

What is It?

In its early stages, MMA has focused on boosting app engagement through in-app marketing. Appboy, for example, is a mobile marketing solution designed to prevent “app-abandonment.”  Other efforts have tried to drive conversions through SMS marketing campaigns and banner ads, but these attempts have generally yielded underwhelming results.

They fail to compel because they fail to contextualize.The next generation of MMA solutions is about connecting with the right people at the right time in a way that is personally meaningful to them. 

The process usually starts with an app download, although it can also be triggered by a mobile visit to a website or an online purchase. Depending on how much data is needed, the customer may or may not have to opt in (e.g. for location tracking). From there, MMA works through push notifications, SMS messages, or in-app messaging to send customers targeted offers and information.

Contextualizing with Triggers

Your marketing efforts can only be relevant insomuch as you know and understand each customer. As developers and firms continue to define MMA this year, the champions will be those who successfully use data and analytics for the most accurate targeting. To accomplish this, businesses will need the help of social tools and customer relationship management (CRM), as well as set of reliable triggers.

Poorly targeted MMA will annoy or fall upon deaf ears. For example: a cafe sends a push notification about a breakfast croissant to a patron passing the storefront, but it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, and the patron isn’t hungry … vs. the use of additional data points (time of day, weather, purchase history, Facebook likes) to send a notification about their favorite iced coffee on a hot afternoon.

What causes the delivery of these targeted messages? The common triggers for mobile marketing aren’t unlike those of traditional marketing automation, although the use of a mobile device as the delivery vehicle allows for greater localization.

  • Location/proximity: geolocation and “beacon” technology can send marketing messages based on real-time geographic location or location within a store (e.g. the gardening section)
  • Behavior: Actions taken by the customer on your website, inside of the app, or in-store trigger appropriately curated content
  • Stage: messaging is tailored to stage in the buying cycle or “funnel” (first-time site visitors, customers interested in specific products, loyal customers, etc.)
  • Sequencing: similar to “drip marketing,” but with mobile, can use a variety of content types (web prompts, web push notifications, SMS, email) to coax a lead through conversion with time-placed messages
  • Throttling/Rate Limits: helps you optimize delivery over a period of time without overwhelming recipients with too many messages at the wrong time

Industry Impact

Businesses everywhere are quickly realizing the advantages of using mobile engagement to drive sales and retention. Last year, advertisers spent 83 percent more on advertising through smartphones and tablets than in 2013.

When it comes to MMA, marketers have reported significant gains in the form of higher customer ratings, reduced acquisition costs, better insight, increased conversions, and the ability to engage customers through multiple channels, according to VentureBeat.

Salesforce’s latest marketing solution—Marketing Cloud—offers a set of cutting edge MMA tools including user-engagement tracking, geo-targeting, and social media analytics.  Marketing Cloud has already attracted thousands of business clients, such as GE, Sony, and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

MMA is also attracting followers in retail, hospitality, automotive sales, and public transportation as a way to simultaneously drive revenue and improve the customer experience. For example, guiding a hotel guest through their stay with pre-arrival emails, amenity promotions, and invitations to local attractions.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re considering a mobile marketing strategy for your business, do some careful research first. Survey your customer base to gauge how receptive they would be to receiving location or behavior based offers. Consider your product or service, and whether or not it lends itself to the mobile arena. MMA won’t be a winning choice for every company. Finally, evaluate a few specific MMA solutions online (most will be part of larger marketing automation or CRM software), or even consider seeking advice from an unbiased consulting service.

Paired with the right data and integrations, mobile marketing automation promises to engage customers in a way that’s more personal and immediate than ever before. Instead of 10 bulk emails, a business can send one meaningful message to the right customer. Instead of spam, that customer will receive value, and repay value with loyalty.


About the author: Aleksandr Peterson is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, CRMs, project management, and other emerging business technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.