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While U.S. marketers agree that mobile communications are essential to engage and motivate customers, two-thirds say they don’t really understand the mobile user experience and how to make it work for their brands. Understanding and leveraging the experiences of more than 300 million mobile users can translate into huge financial gains since one-third of smartphone users not only are communicating, but also are purchasing from these devices. Therefore, it is critical that food marketers know how to activate a brand with ultra-connected consumers in the mobile marketplace.
Reports like a recent one from the Food Marketing Institute show 52 percent of customers use online technology for coupons, shopping lists, recipes, price comparisons and product research. The question on the table for food marketers is how to leverage mobile opportunities in a phone-dependent society to drive customer sales and loyalty. New marketplace dynamics are being defined by SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) consumers. Marketers must determine how to interface with this increasingly powerful audience to capture their share of its wallet.
The key to grabbing SoLoMo consumer attention and leveraging it for brand profit is multi-channel marketing in which mobile promotions support – and increasingly lead – traditional advertising strategies. In doing so, it is important to avoid purely tactical temptations that can sabotage solid brand platforms to the benefit of no one. Successful outcomes for bottom-line brand and business goals are achieved with mobile promotions that are brand-centric and integrate into top-line strategies with actionable messages. SoLoMo consumer responses should be measured in real-time to manage and refine promotional offers.
It’s no surprise that food marketers must address – even embrace – mobile technology in order to grab market share. With smartphone adoption sharply rising, mobile promotions are becoming the norm to cater to cutting-edge customers at the point of action. Instantly responding to customer preferences puts marketers on the fast track as real-time data is fed through the mobile platforms. Brand managers who do not take advantage of this instantaneous marketplace intelligence will soon find themselves in the dust of mobile communicators who engage customers on the spot.
Following are some guidelines for food industry marketers to integrate strategic mobile promotions that are tethered to a brand DNA that is rich in marketplace research and motivating messages:
Step 1: Identify Motivators
Mobile marketing is all about two-way communication and that can happen only when marketers understand their customers and their motivations to act. Before a meaningful mobile promotions campaign can be considered, marketers need to know how consumers perceive the brand, how it intersects with their lifestyles, and where actionable opportunities exist in the overall consumer experience.
According to a recent BlueKai survey, 91 percent of marketers agree that market intelligence is critical to segment and target the right audiences. Grounding a promotion in brand research differentiates strategic mobile marketers from run-of-the-mill promoters. That’s the difference between long-term brand success and one-time promotion hits.
Research results should guide promotions planners to humanize mobile marketing technology for maximum impact and response. It should delineate the reasons why increasing numbers of tech-savvy consumers are turning to online solutions for convenience, comparison shopping, product research and so forth.
Step 2: Activate Your Brand
The most successful brands travel and meet consumers on the path of their personal marketplace journey rather than try to drag them into another sphere. It’s all about the consumers’ experience which they want to define on their own terms. Where and when they connect with a brand is determined by each individual’s comfort level and lifestyle.
Increasingly, consumers are being empowered by Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which gives them 24/7 control over brand experiences and makes customer engagement easy and efficient for marketers. This technology, predicted to become the preferred mobile payment method with its one-touch retail checkout capability, is quickly emerging as the promotions method of choice. It takes mobile marketing to a whole new level with a synergy that creates a holistic introduction-to-decision-to-transaction experience for consumers on the go. With a tap of their mobile devices, consumers can download coupons, recipes, product information, store locations and much more from a NFC tag-embedded poster, ad, shelf-talker, package or other tangible item. In that instant, customer and brand are engaged and the conversation begins. It’s that simple.
Step 3: Personalize and Customize
While NFC technology is easy to use, drawing the customer into the experience and establishing a real world connection is another matter. That’s where human contact makes the difference and creates an active, rather than passive, marketing campaign. Persuasive personal interaction is essential to fully realize the merits of this new wave mobile marketing technology.
Because real-world engagement is essential to virtual marketing success, the retailer should use brand ambassador teams to encourage passersby to tap a NFC-tagged site with their mobile phones. They connect consumers with brands that glide right into their comfort zones.
Highly trained brand ambassadors take the effectiveness of mobile technology to unparalleled levels. The synergy created by the convergence of virtual and real-world platforms produces fast, data-driven results for more efficient and effective marketing outcomes.
Step 4: Layer Promotions Onto Your Brand
Whether the marketing goal is to encourage product trial, establish customer loyalty, expedite check-in/check-out lines, or attract attention, mobile marketing promotions should be strategically rooted in the core platform to achieve a connected brand experience. Marketers who implement experiential marketing campaigns outside the realm of other branding efforts may, in fact, be wasting money and losing valuable ground to more savvy competitors.
A strategic plan connects all the dots with fluid precision and a data-driven mentality to create layers of brand-centric mobile promotions. Brand platforms should be creatively translated into actionable opportunities that refresh the consumer experience over and over again. Extending customer engagement in waves is critical to generating long-term brand loyalty. While on-street mobile promotions can drive store traffic, additional promotional layers can drive in-store sales.
In-store, geo-location technology can interface with GPS-enabled mobile phones to send a message or offer when customers pass a specified display, product or aisle. For example, a coupon for grape jelly may pop up on a smart phone screen as the customer reaches for peanut butter in a nearby aisle. A pasta recipe may appear on-screen when a consumer passes a tomato sauce display. A special cereal sale message may be sent when a customer opens the milk refrigeration unit.
This type of marketplace connectivity is productive for food marketers on multiple levels. It increases in-store sales. It offers another revenue generator for supermarkets that tie geo locator opportunities to product slotting fees. It connects brands with customers in a relevant way at point of purchase.
Step 5: Continue The Conversation
Conversion of personal introductions by on-site ambassadors into longer-term customer relationships should be a marketer’s ultimate goal. Because no promotion is even close to complete without a social media component, I recommend creating a virtual word-spreading bump and continually re-energizing the message or offer. A social media campaign, strategically aligned with brand-centric mobile promotions, will nurture customer awareness and loyalty for longer-term benefit.
When it comes to social media and mobile promotions, it’s all about content marketing. Give consumers information they want, when they want it, and how they want to receive it. For example, offer consumers a download of an electronic cook book, recipe or a coupon. Make the content shareable and accessible across multiple social media platforms. Whatever the timing and delivery method, the content always should be rich with information in which the consumer already has a demonstrated interest.
Food marketers around the world are recognizing the benefit of continual high-tech consumer conversations. One example is Nestle´, which recently extended its NFC-enabled Kit Kat chocolate bar search in the United Kingdom with refreshed contest updates on a GPS tracker landing page and a secondary contest on Facebook.
Step 6: Become Ultra Connected For Ultra Results
The best part about NFC- and QR-enabled mobile marketing is that you can track results in real time via a dashboard populated with strategic milestones. This data can show what is and is not working with consumers in the field. It can help track their destinations and shopping habits as well as their willingness to participate in a given promotion. It enables marketers to redirect the promotion mid-stream for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
Bottom line, key elements of a successful mobile marketing campaign are: promotions grounded in brand strategy, brand activation with a technology-plus-personal approach, layered consumer conversations, and real-time data management and promotion refinement.