Mobile Marketing Folk Wisdom: 6 “Rules” That Aren’t Always True

And what you need to know about them

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As mobile has gone from emerging technology to the center of many people’s lives, we’ve seen a number of mobile marketing principles and strategies come and go. At first, mobile marketing was generally approached as a modified version of a desktop-based web strategy, but over time it’s become clear that people interact with their mobile devices very differently than they do with their computers, requiring a unique approach to engaging customers on smartphones and tablet.

But while some of the mobile marketing guidance you hear is well-sourced and dependable, a lot of advice gets thrown around more informally, making it hard to know if it’s valuable or misleading. We call this guidance “mobile marketing folk wisdom.” And while some of it has the potential to benefit your business, it’s never a good idea to make major marketing decisions without looking into the facts behind them.

To help marketers better tell mobile marketing best practices from mobile marketing myths, we’ve taken a look at six common beliefs to see whether there’s anything to them.

1. “Mobile users are all young, so our content should be especially attractive to them.”

Some companies equate mobile with young and build strategies around that idea, but the reality is more nuanced than that. While it’s true that digital natives love their phones, they’re hardly the only age group to feel that way.

Smartphone owners by age

People of all ages have increased their device usage. 88% of 30-49 year-olds, 74% of 50-64 year-olds, and 42% of those over 65 own smartphones. And there’s plenty of demand for mobile content at any age. In a Pew Research Center study, 50+ smartphone users were texting, browsing and access email on devices almost as frequently as the younger groups.

Sure, it’s important not to neglect your millennial audience, and to accommodate some generational preferences, but it’s probably more effective to focus on your target audiences, whatever age they may be, when developing your mobile engagement strategy.

2. “People only browse on mobile but make purchases on desktops.”

Desktop and tablets are still seeing higher sale conversion rates than mobile, but mobile commerce is growing quickly, so this is something worth watching. The tides may turn fairly soon.

ecommerce conversion rates

That tide is turning faster for some verticals than others. According to comScore, 49% of online spending on video games, consoles, and accessories already comes from mobile, followed closely by 46% of online toy and hobby purchases, 41% of jewelry and watch purchases, and 36% of event ticket purchases. Lower-budget buys are particularly likely to happen on smartphones and tablet, but that may well change; with the rise of new payment gateways, virtual wallets, and growing comfort with the technology, mobile sales are up. This makes it even more important for your mobile store to be easy to use, your checkout seamless, and your brand trustworthy.

3. “Multichannel is always better.”

Yes, generally, more is better to catch the fractured attention of your users. Making the most of channels available to you can help you reach your goals. Onboarding campaigns promoted by push and another channel can increase customer retention by 130%. In an eMarketer survey, 63% of senior marketers said that multichannel, integrated marketing was their top strategy and investment priority.

There is a lot of support out there for multichannel marketing. Gil Klein of Matomy Media Group claims that “Utilizing a multichannel approach to your digital marketing campaigns will give you the ability to engage, acquire, and retain different demographic groups according to the user behavior within specific media channels.”

But it’s important to remember that your users are unique—and that you should test a multichannel approach in comparison to a single-channel one before deciding that multichannel is the right answer for every situation.

Multichannel Matrix

Individuals may have preferences for specific channels (and that goes for both marketers and users) but there are some guidelines we can follow when choosing the best channel for a message. Push and email are better for higher urgency messages and news feed cards and in-app messages can be used when timing is less crucial. Email and News Feed Cards are ideal for richer content whereas push and in-app messages are better for simpler messages.

4. “We have a lot of desktop users, so we don’t have to worry too much about mobile.”

Many marketers see the value of mobile, but sometimes it can be difficult to convince others of the potential when you’re starting from desktop. Don’t assume users won’t want mobile access just because they don’t have it. Sure, a product or platform might particularly lend itself to desktop but that doesn’t mean users won’t read your emails or browse your website on a mobile device.

What if users wish they could do more on their phones? Maybe engagement would go up with new mobile functionality. According to Appticles, when IFC.com switched to an responsive website design, they discovered that 37% of their traffic was mobile and that this group was highly engaged. If you’re projecting demand based on what people can currently do, you may well miss out on the big picture.

5. “Always personalize everything.”

With a new era of data capture and linking capabilities, we now have the power to make our interactions with customers very personalized. We can include their name, send at key engagement times, in their language, with location-specific information, featuring items we know they like, etc. Personalized messages can increase conversions by more than 27%, and personalized send times can increase conversions by 25%. This can lead to a strong relationship, but it can be overdone—or have unintended consequences.

How permissions impact app iusage

In some cases, people can see personalization as intrusive. 60% will abandon a download and 43% will uninstall if they think permissions ask for too much. 74% of people would find it creepy if their location was tracked to allow them to be greeted by name when they enter a store. So it’s best to be honest and make smart use of user data. A great rule of thumb is to use personalization when customers knowingly shared the data that supports it (for instance, by filling out a form or granting accept to their location) and when it makes the message you’re sending more relevant and valuable to the people receiving it. You want to show how your system can help them—not show off all the info you have stored on them.

The other concern is with over-segmentation. You could potentially limit your customer from seeing other offers they may find interesting. If we focus too much on only featuring related items, we can create an inefficient echo-chamber. Lauren Leonardi laid out one scenario in a previous article on Relate:

Say your brand has a segment of customers who have bought floor lamps from you. By targeting them with effective, personalized push notifications and other promotional messaging, you can significantly increase the odds that they buy additional lamps in the future. But if you fixate too completely on what you know about customers based on their past behavior, you may be creating echo chambers for members of your audience.

Sure, you could send them outreach about floor lamps, but what about chandeliers? Or other related items like end tables and desk accessories? Surely one person can like all of these things, and be a potential customer for all of them at the same time.

6. “We have to focus on acquisition.”

Many companies devise a lot of their marketing around acquisition. Sure, you have to get users from somewhere, but a singular focus on acquisition, without similar attention to retention strategies, can be costly. Acquisition costs keep going up and 75% of downloaders don’t even return the second day. If you’re not focused on keeping the users you already have, you may well be throwing money away.

This is not to say that retention is simple or easy. But with a strategic approach, you can really boost your long-term retention rates. It’s important to make the value you offer clear, have effective onboarding and re-engagement campaigns in place to get and keep your users’ attention, and to reward your users for their engagement with incentives and a valuable brand experience. Part of the key is to use messaging to encourage new users to make your brand a habit, supporting consistent engagement over the long haul.

When it comes to your mobile marketing strategy, dig deeper

Whether you’re looking to build a mobile marketing strategy from scratch, or  to boost the impact of your current efforts, it’s important to make sure that you’re not buying into myths that can lead to missed opportunities or unhappy customers. By testing your outreach, keeping an eye on negative KPIs and other campaign data, and thinking through the implications of your current strategy’s performance, you can iterate and change course to find what works best for your audience–even if it goes against folk wisdom.

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