Integrated Marketing


By guest blogger, Mark Weishaar
 
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Today’s smart, marketing-focused organizations realize the value of communicating with their customers using the channel of their customers’ preference. More and more, that preference is mobile.

It’s commonly reported that over 87% of Americans (90% of Canadians) own a cell phone, and most of them won’t leave home without it. For many, checking their mobile device is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do in the morning. Almost 80% of smartphone owners use their device more frequently today for mobile email and texting than to actually make phone calls. Mobile marketing is dominating the media landscape, and mobile users are lapping it up.

  • 82% agree it’s a good way to learn about new products and brands;
  • 80% believe it can influence them to investigate a product or service;
  • 71% accept that it can change the way they think about a product or service; and
  • 65% report that it has the power to influence them to BUY a product or service.

Given this proliferation and mainstream acceptance of technology solutions, one would think that insurance companies and financial services organizations would be among the first to provide their customers and prospects with cutting-edge, lightning-fast applications. But one would be quite wrong. The fact is, only about one-third of marketers report having a defined strategy for mobile marketing! And the insurance industry, in particular, is lagging at the back of the pack when it comes to offering engaging mobile experiences. This sector must explore mobile websites, mobile applications and SMS text messaging campaigns to effectively respond to emerging consumer behavior.

Maximize the efficiency of your Customer Service efforts

One of the easiest and highest-ROI considerations should be your company’s website. Google reports that a good 50% of mobile users become frustrated when they encounter a site that is not mobile-friendly. It seems unnecessary to say that annoying your clients, especially those who may be experiencing an emergency, is not very smart. A mobile application is essentially a tool to make it easy for your customers to connect with you. It can be fun and useful, informative and interactive; it can be a short-cut to service. A Customer Service-specific mobile app might feature

  • Talking to a live agent
  • Dealing with an accident on the spot
  • Requesting a live call-back
  • Filing and managing a claim

Implementing these mobile options can help reduce support costs and call center overhead, reduce customer churn and even increase customer lifetime value. An app can enhance brand advocacy and promote upsells and cross-sells. What’s best, all of these benefits are entirely measurable in terms of ROI.

Building a Useful Database

The success of a mobile marketing strategy is going to depend on the power of your database. No program is complete without an Acquisition Model to cost-effectively harvest and manipulate prospect information. An advertising plan combining online, SMS and traditional channels is vital to drive traffic and promote downloads of a mobile app, with a clearly defined conversion funnel from prospect to customer.

Growing Pains specific to Mobile Payments for Insurance and Banking

Although Juniper Research reports that mobile payments are expected to reach $630 BILLION by 2014, remittances such as insurance premiums are not included. The issue does not lie with the technology of the Mobile Application, but rather with the capabilities and guidelines of mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, among others.

Bill-to-Carrier US Obstacles

  1. Each carrier must approve each program based on their own guidelines. They demand a 2-3 week beta test, during which they review an online-hosted version of each app for flow, usability, bugs, and terms of use acceptance.Your customers choose from among many Carriers, so you need to be compliant with all of them. The degree of speed, complexity and cooperation varies from one Operator to the next; they are however consistent in requiring 20-30% of each purchase amount.
  2. Operators are strict and favor big brands; legitimacy is important given the number of bill-to-carrier scams. As a alternative, they look for a guaranteed minimum of $50,000 in monthly bill-to-carrier revenue, proof that is often first generated in Canada or Europe.
  3. US Carriers prefer micropayments to the tune of $2. They are reluctant to approve monthly fees of $15 or $20 due to the higher risk of complaints or accidental enrollment by children.

Their preference for lower price points, non-recurring fees and virtual goods over outside services can all be hurdles for monthly insurance premium billing.

In addition to carrier complexities, success can depend on the various device operating systems. Currently, only Android supports bill-to-carrier within a native application. iOS will only use its IAP API (In-app purchase) using iTunes to make a purchase.

Retention and Loyalty – in a Mobile Environment

It is possible to truly integrate mobile into your existing strategy and better measure increased retention and loyalty from your customers. It’s all about convenience and real-time communication. Give them instant fingertip access to source and share critical data:

  • Review the latest product and service offerings
  • Manage personal “MyAccount” files on the go
  • Provide 24/7 emergency access to processes and forms on a handheld device
  • Enable immediate accident claims reporting and supporting photo uploads

These are just a few of the exciting, dynamic Mobile solutions that will propel your further differentiation from the competition – with measurable results.

Yet there are many complexities surrounding the development of mobile apps and mobile websites for insurance premium payment processing and lead generation. Any such strategy requires an in-depth understanding of the various Carriers, government regulations, operating systems, user demographics and data availability. This calls for the experienced insights of seasoned experts.

Today’s technology does not allow “catch-up” time. But it’s never too late to adjust your marketing focus onto those channels that are proven to build connections with your customers. They will reward you with interest, participation and brand loyalty.

Mark Weishaar is VP, Business Development with Direct Access Marketing, based in Burlington, Ontario, Canada and Philadelphia, PA.

 

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What Stands in the Way of Compelling Content?

Nasheen Liu, VP of marketing at The  IT Media Group,  discusses hindrances marketers face in creating compelling marketing content and and recommends three strategies to overcome them.  Two key problems she identifies are:

  1. Lack of control over the subject-matter.
  2. Feeling too removed from their audience.

She shares some approaches for overcoming those  challenges that allows markerters to more effectively create and repurpose compelling content.

Three Strategies

Strategy 1: Be an avid journalist to your internal  audience

In brief, there is no substitute for interaction with your field organization and customers.  Your notes from these interactions should include insights  from customers that can be summarized in a report and communicated to  your stakeholders.

Liu’s recommendation is to repurpose these valuable insights as “Industry Newsflashes,”  “Customer Insights,” and “Opportunity Analysis” for your internal audiences.  Why is this important?

Marketers often fail to realize that their most important audience is the  internal one. To market anything successfully, one must first and foremost  create as much visibility as possible internally. Every employee is your message  carrier. You will not become a rock star marketer if you don’t have the support  of your internal stakeholders.

Strategy 2: Insource your content, but control the  output

To get a good handle on your subject matter, it’s important to identify the domain experts  – at least one person in each cross-functional area who can serve as your go-to resource. This will give you a ready supply of content.

Getting subject experts to be responsive is a key challenge. You’ll need to schedule some time interviewing them in person. The conversation should be targeted to extracting content from them in 30 minutes or less.  One way to set this process in motion is to create an editiorial calendar.

If you promote your experts and give them visibility, you can gain you loyal sponsors and  support for your endeavors.

Strategy 3: Outsource your topics to industry  experts

One of the most common failures that I see marketers make in trying to promote themselves as thought leaders or impress audiences with their products and services is the mistake of “singing your own praises.”  To gain the attention and trust of the customer, it’s much better to get someone else to do the praising in an indirect way.

In the technology space, I engage industry experts, media personalities, and  well-known bloggers. The kind of perception you are trying to create is this:  “Wow, these guys are associated with her? Impressive.”

To build on this,  you can build  an onging campaign in which your expert can help you in various activities. Some ideas:

An initial article can turn into a moderated customer forum. The  findings from the forum become a whitepaper. The whitepaper can be used to  develop a video case study. And so on. Such linkages can continue to develop and  mature over the life of the catmpaign.

As Liu points out, “content is the bread and butter of what we do in the world of marketing.” Yet it often seems to get lost in the flurry of planning and execution, and becomes an afterthought. A successful marketing organization exists as part of a larger context of consistent messaging accross all touch points, internal and external. Nothing promotes an organization’s brand value more effectvely than shared messaging.

Marketing Models That No Longer Work

 of Newmediamarketing.com provides a list of 10 Marketing Principles That Aren’t True Anymore. His core observation is that mass marketing models no longer optimally address the new attitudes and behaviors of the socially connected consumer.  For instance, while TV drives awareness, it is increasingly the Internet that drives conversion.
Of the 10 marketing principles that Rich finds increasingly irrelevant, I will highlight those that I consider to be the top 3.  It is important to consider these consideration points in the context of your own product and marketing environment because principles that work best for one type of product marketing environment may not work as well in others.

3 Marketing Principles To Rethink

1. Mass Segmentation Models – The old mass segmentation models are giving way to micro-segmentation.  Here’s why:  because people have more in common with those they follow on social media than their demographic peers, and because everything happens in real time online. Consequently:

…it’s more a relevant message to a relevant audience at a relevant time.

Customer segmentation is the practice of dividing customers into groups relevant to a particular line of business in order to decide how to relate to customers in each segment. The goal is to maximize the value of each customer to the business.

Micro-segmentation groups small numbers of customers into more precise segments, based on factors, including behavioral predictions in order to direct specific marketing actions to each micro-segment. The goal is to maximize the effectiveness of every contact with each customer.

The Process: For example, customers of an online gaming company might be segmented into Lifestyle Stage Groups, such as: 1) fun; 2) new; 3) active; 3) star; 4) churn; and 5) reengaged. Deeper dives into each Lifestyle Stage Group can be made by segmenting these customers into Segmentation Layers, using cluster analysis on sets of attributes that share a common context, including behavioral and demographic. By associating each customer with a string of different clusters, customers are then grouped together as micro-segments.

Intended Results: Micro-segments, which typically contain very few customers each, allows for highly personalized predictive analysis and marketing action optimization.   Tracking and analyzing how different marketing actions affect the spending behavior of different micro-segments makes it possible to predict the effectiveness levels of different marketing actions on different segments. As a result, marketers can better determine which marketing approaches will have greater impact on each group of customers. Further, since the micro-segments are dynamic, and there is movement through the Lifestyle Stages, dynamism of the customer path can be factored into the analysis. As explained by micro-segmentation company, Micromove:

Most companies  view segmentation as a method of clustering similar customers together at a given point in time, but they completely disregard the path or route that each customer has taken to reach his or her present segment. By analyzing customers based on their movement among segments over time, [micro-segmentation] achieves far more accurate segmentation than any other known method.

Focus on Customer Lifetime Value in segmentation allows for better targeted marketing based on more precise predictive customer behavior models.

2. The Purchase Funnel (Reach and Frequency)

For products where the purchase process is more complex, building awareness through reach and frequency is only a first step. In line with the Consumer Decision Journey as defined by McKinsey, to improve conversion, you need to rethink the “purchase funnel” in favor of a more complex consumer decision model.

My article, The Customer Decision Journey: Research Overturns the Marketing Funnel shows that the old consideration funnel has given way to a decision loop (“the consumer decision journey”) that takes place in a less linear and more complicated purchase environment where there are numerous touch points and key buying factors resulting from the explosion of product choices and digital channels, coupled with the emergence of an increasingly discerning, well-informed consumer. 

consumer decision journey

McKinsey’s David Court has a presentation showing what this means for marketers. He explains:

You have a trigger of some sort, where people start across the decision journey — they are now going to move towards purchase. The first stage is initial consideration. In many industries, people actually start in their initial consideration of a brand with a relatively narrow list, we believe because of the busy lives and bombardment of media — it’s just very difficult to get through all this clutter in this consumers initial consideration set. However, once the consumer decides they are going to buy a product, they move into a stage that we call active evaluation. It is here that the number of brands they are considering increases. Which is exactly the opposite of the premise of the funnel, going from broad to narrow. This is the stage when the consumer is intent on purchasing and they are actively researching the product.

3. Acquisition Only

Your business model will naturally continue to depend on new customer acquisition goals, but not exclusively. Marketing models based on new customer acquisition alone that do not also have strategies for retention and engagement break down over time, and the reason that pyramid schemes ultimately collapse is that there are a limited number of new customers to be sold.

Brand loyalty is important because brand enthusiasts will reengage and repurchase, and influence others to whom (s)he is socially connected to purchase and engage. So it’s vitally important today to keep the customers you have happy by delivering on all brand touch points, and creating a social context for them to become brand ambassadors.

Apple is the oft-cited example of a company whose brand loyalty-oriented model has been extremely successful. While not the PC market share leader, Apple has leapfrogged other PC makers in profitability because their customers are willing to pay more for a better brand experience. 

Lessons For Marketers In The Age of Socially Driven Conversion

Strategy: Traditional messaging is geared toward trying to get into the consumer’s initial consideration stet. However, rather than continue to push ads and promotions out to broad groups of consumers, marketers need to be sure that their marketing activities are aligned against how their consumers research and buy products.

Consider the likely results if the customer reaches out during the active evaluation stage but is not provided the facts and testimonials that (s)he is looking for to make the purchase decision. The budget spent on gaining recognition and getting into a customer’s initial considerations set will not only fail to result in conversion, but will effectively deliver the client to a competitor who delivers on the customer’s pre-purchase expectations.

In essence, this means that the customer has moved past a brand’s promise to a brand’s value in the consideration phase.  So marketers have to bridge the gap between consideration and conversion sooner by developing ways for people to talk about your product, and making word of mouth work in the age of socially driven conversion.

Social engagement doesn’t mean that, as Rich Meyer puts it, consumers necessarily “want to have a relationship with their salad dressing or butter…You also need to think more about your brand as media than just providing sales information online.”

In other words, since the joy of the purchase itself is often more than that derived from the product itself, what value are you delivering in the customer’s purchase experience? You need to emotionally connect to your customers and give them an emotional reason to select your brand.  The choices consumers make are not rational ones.

Tactics: Tactics include being represented on independent internet sites where people go and research and buy products. If you don’t have enough presence on those types of consumer driven approaches, when the consumer is reaching out during active evaluation, you’re not there for them to find.

Rich Meyer summarizes the customer-centric approach in the age of socially-driven conversion extremely well:

I believe the greatest strength any marketer can have is his, or her, ability to understand the dynamics of their brand/product from a consumers POV.  This means understanding what are the key drivers to conversion and where and when consumers want to interact with the brand.  I love Oreo cookies but I don’t want to friend them on Facebook.   Organizations that prepare for change and implement new marketing thinking will be ready to leverage new business and customers.

A New Duh! Moment In Advertising

After years of success in the UK, Kellogg’s rolled out  Crunchy Nut Cereal in the U.S. in late January, 2011.  A New York Times article on Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal titled “Did We Mention That It Tastes Good?”  shows that Kelloggs has uncovered a brilliant new marketing strategy for the breakfast cereal category:

What sets adult cereal apart from most other foods is that, oddly, it is rarely advertised primarily on the promise of tasting good. Special K, for example, is marketed as a dieting aid for women who eat it throughout the day, while Wheaties promises to fuel athletic performance and Fiber One promotes the digestive benefits of a high-fiber diet. Although popular adult cereals make secondary claims about being toothsome, of course, the primary pitch is for healthfulness. But for Crunchy Nut, a brand being introduced in the United States, theKellogg Company is doing something that goes against the grain: selling cereal to American adults solely on the claim of being tasty.

“It’s Morning Somewhere”

Doug VanDeVelde, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Kellogg’s, explains the strategy behind this:

Acceptable taste is necessary for any brand, but this is the high end of taste, taste as good as it gets for cereal. This is the cereal for people who want the ultimate, super-duper taste experience.

The “it’s morning somewhere” television campaign features humorous commercials focused on the taste experience of Crunchy Nut.

In a brilliant television commercial made by the Chicago office of Leo Burnett, part of the Publicis Groupe, a young man works in the night on a laptop at his kitchen table, where a box of Crunchy Nut rests. The voiceover says: “New Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut. “So delicious you won’t want to wait till morning to eat it.”

The young man is then shown holding the cereal box and a bowl and pulls a spoon from his pocket when passing through airport security. After sleeping on an airplane hugging the box to his chest, he bumps along a dirt road on a bus, hitches a ride on the back of a motorcycle, and arrives in a remote fishing village in Tonga.  As the sun starts to rise, he eats his bowl of cereal, and the spot closes with the campaign tagline: “It’s morning somewhere.”

Inventing A New High End Category

Most American households already buy cereal, so marketers focus on increasing “usage occasions,” for instance, incorporating cereal into a diet plan, as with Special K, or featuring non-breakfast recipes on boxes, as in Corn Flakes-coated chicken, or Chex Mix and Rice Krispies treats.

Likewise, the concept behind ‘It’s morning somewhere, is to extend usage occasions, but on the basis of it’s taste. Kellogg’s has also introduced luxury variants to its Crunchy Nut line. This makes sense for 3 reasons:

  1. Consumer Preference: In a survey by , according to market research firm Mintel of American adults who eat cereal, respondents rated the importance of cereal attributes, and taste ranked highest, followed by price, wholegrain content, familiarity of flavor, fiber content and sugar content.
  2. Consumer Behavior: 59% of cereal consumers eat it for breakfast most mornings, while 40% have a bowl for lunch or dinner sometimes
  3. Demographic Targeting: Kellogg’s is targeting a young male adult audience with the message that cereal isn’t just for breakfast.

Although taste and fun is rarely the primary focus with advertising for adult cereal, it has has long been so with children’s brands:

“The way to market to kids is a lot about taste and fun,” said VanDeVelde, noting the popularity of mascots like Toucan Sam, the Froot Loops character. “Toucan Sam has a great relationship with kids and goes on all these fruity adventures.”
Another similarity with children’s brands is sugar content. Crunchy Nut O’s are 37% sugars by weight, more than Frosted Flakes, which are 36.7% sugars. Crunchy Nut Flakes are 35.5% sugars by weight, well over not just many cereal brands but also some cookie brands, like Chips Ahoy, which are 31.3% sugars.

Integrated Marketing Opportunities

Kellogg‘s “It’s morning somewhere” campaign for Crunchy Nut cereal included TV, print, public relations and in-store marketing.

Digital: It also has a strong digital component that includes banner ads, homepage takeovers, and online video.

Event: The official launch was hosted at a 24-hour event, centered on a six-story tall cuckoo clock, which aimed to make the Guinness Book of World Records. Every hour of the day-long launch, the gigantic clock would chime, and actor Brad Norman would emerge, offering comedic performances dressed as a character from a location where it was currently morning. Celebrity entertainer Nick Cannon kicked off the event at Hollywood and Highlander Center in Los Angeles, energizing the crowd with a countdown to the first chime.

Clock   Nickcannon

Live video streams of the performances were available on the Crunchy Nut Facebook page, keeping fans in the loop. Additionally, there were opportunities to sample the cereal and interact with Brad Norman.

Mobile QR:  For the mobile campaign, Kellogg’s partnered with Augme Technologies, one of the leading services in the interactive media market. It uses QR codes  printed on cereal boxes that can be scanned by a smartphone, as well as an SMS code. Scanning recognizes users’ location and local time, prompts a video of an exotic locale where it is morning, and connects to a mobile site hosting 13 videos. Different videos run depending on the time of day a consumer connects, and the videos show breakfast time in another country.

The QR campaign was targeted specifically to single males between the ages of 18 and 35, who were mostly college students. The goal was to use the QR code to intrigue this market, who are computer literate and enjoy electronic games. ClickZ quotes Yuvraj Arora, Senior Marketing Director at the Kellogg Company:

The use of QR codes/SMS technology on packaging gave us an opportunity to connect with our consumer and bring the unique personality of the brand to life, beyond what could normally be accomplished with the product packaging alone.

Kellogg plans to offer more rewards-based content through the QR codes, including voting on new flavors and other rewards for participation.

Strong Results: ClickZ says the campaign – which is directed toward single men and also includes a traditional website and videos hosted onYouTube – has received mixed reviews, but here are some of the numbers generated during the campaign’s promotional period:

  • 40,000 QR scans
  • 60,000 texts to the mobile site
  • the scans and texts resulted in 38,000 videos played
  • and 50,000 pageviews
  • Facebook page with over 7,500 likes

While it seems surprising that QR scans would outnumber keyword texts, the effectiveness of QR scans makes particular sense in realm of cereal promotions – where consumers spend time reading the backs of cereal boxes, and can use a simple barcode as they leisurely eat their breakfast.

Related News Article

Marketing Meets Social Meets R&D

 of Mindjumpers Social Media Group in her post, Case of Creative Crowdsourcing: Let Your Fans Guide Your Brand, highlights how crowdsourcing gives a voice to your fans to inspire brand loyalty.

“Do Us a Flavor” 

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division launched it’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign launched in July, 2012. Lay’s is asking its US website, fans to “come up with the next great Lay’s flavor.” They invite users to name their flavor, pick out what ingredients will go into it and share their inspiration online or by text message. The payoff? The person who submits the winning flavor can win $1 million dollars or 1% of the chips’ 2013 net sales (the greater).

This campaign,  first launched in the UK in 2008 and then in several other countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.  The campaign was successful in more than 14 countries, generating more than 8 million chips flavor ideas globally. It resulted in the creation of numerous new flavors, including: Chili & Chocolate, Caesar Salad, Late Night Kebob,  Thailand’s hot and spicy crab, Turkey’s haydari and India’s mastana mango.  Salman Amin, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, PepsiCo says he decided to launch the campaign in the U.S. because:

Judging from the success of these contests worldwide, we feel confident that the response will be incredibly enthusiastic here in the U.S. Consumers love to create new products and fervently support brands and companies that demonstrate they truly value their opinions. Moreover, everyone loves potato chips—each of us has a favorite taste that came from years of experimentation, and we all like contests with big prizes that reward our creativity.

Takeaways

  • Engagement People like to have their voices and opinions heard. By asking fans to submit a flavor, Lay’s makes them feel special, while an incentive to participate can generate even more engagement.
  • Attention News spreads fast among engaged fans as their participation shows in their Facebook newsfeeds.
  • Personal relationship You build a stronger relationship with customers by making them feel part of the company’s core processes. Guillaume Jesel, a Senior Vice President for global marketing at MAC describes the strategy as letting “the consumers take the steering wheel for a while.”
  • Problem solving Crowdsourcing provides you a quicker and lower cost way to decide on your next product, inspired by consumers’ needs and wishes.
  • Replicate success A winning idea in one market may work in many other markets as well with similar preferences.

Other successful crowdsourcing campaigns that have helped brands design their new products include:

Several have led to incredible levels of consumer engagement:

How Crowdsourcing Works

  1. You identify a problem
  2. You broadcast the problem
  3. The “crowd” (fans) submit solutions
  4. You and the crowd vet the solutions
  5. You reward winning solvers.
  6. Everybody profits

Dion Hinchcliffe of ebiz explains that internet startups that have had considerable success with crowdsourcing over the last few years, including with its more serious cousin peer production, have recently focused on creating the tools and communities for enterprises. They include the online design service Crowdspring, and other early providers such as Amazon’s excellent Mechanical Turk and Innocentive. The economics and results of crowdsourcing are often compelling. LG recently designed a new phone this way for just $20,000 (details and submissions here). Crowdsourcing services include idea generation, design work, execution of business processes, testing services, and even customer support, all of which can now be connected, often programmatically, directly to a company’s supply chain. While companies such as Netflix (the Netflix Prize) and Emporis have built their own internal crowdsourcing capabilities internally, most companies rely on commercial services  for the necessary ingredients of effective crowdsourcing, including configurablearchitectures of participation, legal constructs, customer support, and communities of users ready to contribute.  Crowdsourcing campaigns typically pay by the unit of work (such as a successfully completed task) or for a successful solution to a problem, usually in the form of a prize.

Why Use Crowdsourcing?

The reasons for a business to use crowdsourcing are varied:

  • The ability to offload peak demand
  • Access to cheaper business inputs
  • Generating better results
  • Tackling problems that would have been too difficult to do otherwise.

A challenge is the swamping of inputs – the richness and variety of contributions, while wonderful, can require considerable review to find the best ones.  Crowdsourcing services now address this with filters and controls, such as Kluster’s ability to more readily tune the “relative influence” of various types of participants.

Five Functional Business Areas Suitable for Crowdsourcing

Here are examples of some of the business uses of crowdsourcing today:

1. Problem Solving

Innocentive, the leading open innovation service, has over 180,000 contributors who can work on problems in science, manufacturing, biotech, medicine and many other fields. They offer rewards ranging from $5,000 up to $1 million for solutions to submitted problems.  An article in The Economist reports a 74% ROI for crowdsourcing over central production methods. Other options include GuruStormsPhiloptima and PlanetEureka.

2. Design

Crowdsourced design services like Crowdspring provide marketplaces to allows for crowdsourcing Web designs cheaply and quickly. Others, like Denook, offer design for other things like apparel. BootB, can help companies crowdsource marketing and creative work. General purpose tools like Kluster can help companies strategically farm specific design decisions across their own private or public community. Services such as Elance provide on-demand design work, but are not structured to create multiple competing inputs.

3. Work

For many kinds of simple tasks, there are highly granular on-demand work marketplaces. Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower are two of the top solutions in this area. A good example is CastingWords, one of the best audio transacription web services, which breaks up recordings into tiny pieces and distributes them across the world to Mechanical Turk workers for conversion to text. For IT shops TopCoder offers crowdsourcing for software development from , the “world’s largest competitive software development community with 220,326 developers representing over 200 countries.

4. Testing. “Users as testers” assures broadbased and thorough user input from customers. Services such as uTest are bringing crowdsourcing to testing of software and other services.

5. Support. Online customer communities are a growing source of crowdsourced customer service and support for companies that understand how to grow and nurture them. Services such as FixyaGetSatisfaction and CrossLoop crowdsource customer support to get the answers to questions companies have that are often more accurate than what the companies can generate internally by themselves.

Like many aspects of digital business, crowdsourcing is a very recent development that is still in its early stages. Creative companies have an opportunity to use it to link marketing more closely to research, development, design and customer service, forging competitive marketplace advantages.

Mobile Shopping Is on the Rise

New research shows that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are changing consumer shopping behavior. Nielsen’s new findings demonstrate that consumers are now becoming more comfortable with mobile shopping:

  • 47% of smartphone owners have used native shopping apps
  • 45 million have used shopping apps an average of 17 times per person per month

Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices whether for pre-shopping research or final purchase because portable devices like smartphones and tablets are convenient and portable, making research and access to social networks available anywhere.

TheTop 10 Mobile Shopping Apps

Nielson ranks the top 10 mobile shopping apps for retail by traffic volume and the amount of time spent on the sites:

mobile_shopping_apps

Mobile Shopping traffic grew by 38%

With Twitter and Facebook are under increased pressure to monetize their business models, social networking is  increasingly influencing  consumers mobile shopping behavior. As consumers become increasingly willing to share about their shopping experience, ecommerce sales grow:

  • Traffic was 43% higher than the prior 3 weekdays for the 2012 summer Independence holiday.
  • Q2 revenue grew 15% over the same period in 2011 to $43.15 billion, according to Comscore, .

The Mobile Payments Process Is Evolving

Retailers including Walmart and Target formed a partnership called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) to facilitate the shopping experience by integrating the convenience of paying at the register with customizable offers, promotions and retail programs. The result is a mobile shopping app that should work on almost any smartphone to bring mobile shopping into the mainstream by removing barriers like multiple app downloading and allaying financial security fears.

Mobile Shopping Customizes the Shopping Experience

Joseph Ruiz  of Social Media Today gives two examples of how the mobile shopping are providing a more customer-centric experience.

I went to an Apple store to purchase an iPad. From research, to purchase, to set-up, I was with the same sales rep the entire time. The store representative was able to check inventory and complete the sales transaction from his phone. The phone was connected to discreetly hidden printers in nearby tables.

Ford is experimenting with a sales process that will equip their reps with iPads designed to facilitate the buying experience by allowing the rep and customer to build their vehicle on the spot.

New software now allows even small businesses and individuals to accept mobile payments conveniently using their mobile devices.

Is Mobile-Influenced Commerce The Next Big Boom?

Mobile-Influenced Commerce

Recent data presented by Deloitte Consulting LLP shows shows that:

  • 2012: Mobile-Influenced Commerce will be responsible for $159 billion in 2012 sales.
  • 2012: Direct mCommerce sales will draw just $12 billion in sales.
  • 2016: Mobile-Influenced Commerce will account for $689 billion (19.5%) of total retail sales.
  • Direct mCommerce will be only $31 billion.

Mcommerce

About 19 million US smartphone owners (or 17.4% of owners) completed a purchase via their device, aka mcommerce, during the three-month period ending April, 2012, according to comScore. This includes purchases such as tickets, meals for delivery or pickup, daily deals or discounts and gift certificates, but comScore’s list is missing other purchases that require the use of a mobile device such as music, videos, ebooks and games.

comscore what people buy on their smartphones

Mobile is More Than Mcommerce

Mobile devices empower their users with easy access to information, including:

  • Store locations
  • Product availability
  • Product features
  • Product reviews
  • Price comparisons

Mobile usage influences 5.1% of all retail store sales in the US or about $159 billion in 2012 forecasted sales, according to Deloitte research.   Consumers are using their mobile devices in retail locations for a variety of reasons. Retailers, however, are most concerned with the consumer practice of showrooming where consumers check out products in their stores and then buy online. Based on the results of ForeSee’s Mobile Satisfaction Survey, most shoppers turn to their smartphones for information about the retailer, specifically for their mobile website or app.

Additionally, buyers use their smartphone to check prices often through a price comparison app or website. This group is roughly one in three or four consumers, based on various research sources.

Implications for Marketers: Provide An Enhanced Shopping Experience

Deloitte found that shoppers who use a retailer’s dedicated app were 21% more likely to convert than those who didn’t. This may be attributable to an improved shopping experience that aided their purchase decision.

There are multiple stages in the purchase decision making process. Brands can provide the information relevant to the customer’s buying decision in the place where consumers are increasingly looking for this information – on their mobile device. Companies can influence their buying decisions by being the resource they consult as they research product information before, and during, their shopping trip, and being the digital voice they are hearing from while they are in your store.

3 Mobile Influence Marketing Strategies

Heidi Cohen provides this advice on how to leverage your mobile influence:

  1. Provide prospects and customers with easy-to-access, mobile-friendly information since they’re researching their purchases via online, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Offer both mobile website and app options. With the growing use of both alternatives, allow your customers to use the forum they choose. Ensure these platforms are consistent with your online website, social media and retail establishments to provide a seamless customer experience.
  3. Give mobile consumers the best price. While I’m not a proponent of competing on price, if you’re offering discounts anywhere, give on-the-go prospects the best price to close the deal since they may be in your store or your competitors.

A Mobile-Optimized Version of Your Website Is Not Enough

To unleash the full potential of Mobile-Influenced Commerce , companies must integrate mobile with their social media strategy and brick and mortar/field sales strategy, to create a richer buying experience. They should:

  • Make sure physical locations offer Wi-Fi connectivity to customers who expect the ability to utilize their mobile devices to make more-informed purchase decisions.
  • Invest in improving dedicated apps or websites to attract, retain and convert smartphone shoppers.
  • Keep costs down by partnering with cutting-edge companies that can offer additional functionality, via API, to existing apps -to increase use and engagement levels.
  • Pull together the social media strategy, Wi-Fi access and app functionality to deliver shoppers to the company’s physical location,  engage them at the point of purchase and influence their purchasing habits.
    • Use new technologies to offer discounts and rewards, subscribe them to loyalty cards and invite them to take advantage of free memberships via mobile.

Snap! principle of Mobile Influenced Commerce:

 To reap the optimal rewards from changing market conditions, forward-thinking companies position themselves to leverage their digital assets to tap into the power of Mobile-Influenced Commerce.

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