Time spent on mobile continues to increase at an explosive rate and has now reached more than 23% of total media consumption. Even so, most companies are still only starting to scratch the capabilities of how they can use mobile devices to drive their business forward.
Mobile devices extend and expand the customer journey in complicated ways that we are just now starting to understand. For example, how can a mobile app installed for a summer campaign sustain a brand relationship long after the campaign ends? Will mobile banner ads drive higher conversions when they drive to an email offer or an app install?
Businesses have been limited in their ability to see across devices and understand how the customer journey across mobile and desktop builds toward a specific desired outcome. This is an especially important problem when 90% of consumers with multiple devices switch between them to complete tasks and transactions. That’s why many marketers are now focusing on developing unified customer profiles for mapping customer activities and analyzing performance across channels and ad networks.
For the last four years, I have been studying the best practices used by brand marketers to develop deep, engaged and highly engaged relationships across multiple digital points. Here is a surefire three step process for using mobile to open customer engagements across all their devices and build long-term brand relationships:
Step 1: Use Mobile Ads to Drive App Installs…and Nothing Else
Mobile devices present an incredible challenge and opportunity for marketers because they place brands directly into the hands of customers. Historically, companies have struggled to stay in front of a customer and stay top of mind. Traditional advertising mediums like TV and print are built on the idea of interrupting from something a customer cares about, sticking a message in their face, and hoping something sticks down the road.
Mobile is a task-driven experience. People use their phone for getting specific things something done, like checking a flight status, or snapping a picture; the small screen size supports a focused, purposeful experience.
Interruption doesn’t work on mobile – the more intimate the device, the more that unwanted interruptions will offend users – making most mobile ads a waste of money. The majority of mobile ad dollars are spent on banner ads meant to distract with content is unrelated to a user’s intended task. No wonder that banners have the worst click-through rate of any ad format—a paltry 0.27%.
Ad formats that promote app installs, however, do extremely well—in fact, they have clickthrough rates 30-50 times higher than banners. App install ads work because they are woven into the fabric of many experiences rather than diverting attention.
Take the three most common app install advertisements. On Facebook, they embed directly in the timeline are a good example. iOS and Android both feature the ability for sites to be tagged to an app when a user visits your site from a browser. Most mobile ad networks support interstitials that promote app installs.
In all of these scenarios, the app install ad is integrated into the primary experience rather than detracting from it. Which is why you should use mobile ads to drive app installs….and nothing else.
Step 2: Require Registration In the App Install Process
With a solid strategy for driving installs, you are on your way to a deep relationship with your customer. To close the loop on understanding who your customer is, you need them to register—and the best time to have them do that is the very first time they launch the app.
The value of the registration event is huge. It creates a connection point for understanding how customers move through the buying cycle. Of course, driving registrations means featuring a clear, compelling reason to log in. The functionality they receive upon registration must be instantly valuable to the customer to entice them to sharing their data. (You were already planning to do that already, right?)
The registration process converts anonymous installers into known customers. The registration process should also connect to other customer data management systems, so you can develop a complete understanding of each individual through a centralized and actionable profile. Once they are logged into your app, customers never need log in again. Since the mobile device is so inherently personal, it’s common practice to only require a single login, then persist the session unless the user actively decides to log out.
Required registrations might slightly reduce app engagement, but since it has become a familiar, expected experience there tends to be little resistance to this step any more. Many of the most popular apps require new users to set up an account or log in to an existing account, including:
Heck, even Yo requires new users to create an account.
Step 3: Open Up A Personal Communication Channel
Once a customer has registered, you have access to their most trusted communications tool. More than email, more than retargeting, and certainly more than offline advertising, mobile push notifications are the most engaged form of messaging; open rates are more than twice as high as email.
The best part is you don’t have to pay a media company or any other intermediary to directly access your customer. When you have a promotion, you simply give it to them. Directly. And let them respond. Instantly.
As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben told his nephew, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Customers will burn out on push notifications if you abuse them, so it’s important to continue to push only relevant, value-add messages. An occasional, well-timed notification can drive huge response rates. If you can link most of your pushes to personalized updates (e.g. “someone has tagged you in a new photo”), your customer will accept periodic marketing messages and still find value in the engagement.
For several years, we have seen time spent on mobile devices dramatically outpace mobile ad spend (See slide 15 of Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet 2014). The reason is clear: once you have a customer’s permission to talk to them, there is no reason to advertise to them on the same device ever again.
Interested in more detail? See more mobile registration best practices from Janrain.