6 signs marketing is in a mobile engagement crisis

Columnist Josh Todd says the "good enough" approach to mobile is no longer an option. Marketers need to innovate and provide mobile audiences with a personalized, relevant experience.

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We weren’t measuring mobile engagement when the iPhone first launched in 2007, but if we were, I have a hunch that the numbers would have been through the roof.

When the iPhone arrived on the scene, apps were novel and a delight for users who had been fumbling with old-school phones with overloaded keyboards and terrible interfaces. Users also had no expectations for the new phone; everything was fresh, shiny and, most importantly, infinitely engaging.

Since then, a lot has changed. The popularity of mobile and apps has risen to higher peaks than we ever could have imagined.

Mobile is now the cornerstone of many brands, with companies making apps not just a vital component, but for some, the entire basis for their business. Mobile has moved from being solely an engineering focus to a critical area that marketers must master in order to build strong, profitable relationships with their customers.

Consumer expectations and behaviors also have changed dramatically. Consumers have come to expect a highly personalized, relevant, timely experience when it comes to mobile.

And they also demand that businesses, and more specifically, marketers, be able to meet these expectations thanks to the immense amount of user data that apps provide, as well as engagement tools like push and in-app messaging.

Unfortunately, their expectations aren’t currently being met.

Mobile Engagement 1

We’re in the midst of a mobile engagement crisis. Instead of using mobile to build deeper relationships between companies and consumers, most businesses are taking a “good enough” approach, largely focused on organizing, planning and engaging on mobile the same way they did for the web.

Given the rapid technological advancements and economic pressures of the past nine years since the iPhone was introduced, it’s not a surprise we’re here. Our world as marketers has become complex, quick to change and frustrating.

Many of us would readily admit we don’t have the in-house skills, resources or budget to make a radical change.

Why the “good enough” approach doesn’t work

Here are six signs that prove businesses are in a mobile engagement crisis. Imagine what our world will look like if these numbers continue to get worse:

1. Half of consumers trust their mobile operators and brands less than they did three years ago. Businesses and brands have spent the last nine years trying to figure out how to reach and engage mobile audiences, but with the exception of a handful of notable successes, very few have figured it out, and clearly, it’s getting worse.

2. 25 percent of apps are only used once. What’s more shocking is that over time, this number only gets worse. Our research shows that 58 percent of users will churn in the first 30 days of using an app, and 75 percent will leave within the first three months.

Mobile Engagement 2

3. Downloads and views are the coveted metric for mobile marketers and app developers. According to Forrester Research, the most popular metric of mobile success is “views/traffic to my mobile site/app.”

However, if businesses can’t keep a user engaged and coming back to their apps, the initial download means nothing and doesn’t translate to better customer engagement and relationships.

4. I’ve frequently talked about the power of push notifications for re-engaging with a user who’s ready to churn. Push messages and in-app messages are strong tools, especially when combined with granular data, but customers are wary.

A whopping 50 percent of users see push notifications as annoying, and there’s a negative correlation between sending multiple messages in one week and open rates.

Mobile Engagement 3

5. Even scarier is that at least 35 percent of push messages are still blasted to all users, instead of personalized to people’s interests and behaviors. These types of poorly timed or impersonal mobile marketing campaigns are negatively impacting user retention.

Loyal user engagement rates have dropped from a year average of 24 percent in 2012 to 18 percent in 2015.

6. Forrester Research notes that 44 percent of companies state that mobile services are simply a scaled-down version of their online initiatives. Businesses simply do not have the right resources, organizational structure and financial support to make mobile a truly differentiated tactic, so they go with what they know.

But that fails to capture the essence of mobile as the catalyst for a whole new customer experience.

The “good enough” approach does not work. If we continue to not follow the data and fail to innovate in our approach to mobile, it could fundamentally work against us and push our mobile audiences away — the very antithesis of engagement.

I’m not highlighting these trends to scare you. Well, actually, I do want to shock you, because we need to act now to ensure a bright future for mobile.

When mobile engagement is done the right way — in a manner that is personalized, insight-driven, human and targeted — it will usher in a new era of brand loyalty where our relationships with our most valuable and loyal customers will be more immersive than ever before.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Josh Todd
Josh Todd is chief marketing officer for Localytics. He oversees global marketing, branding and advertising. He formerly served as vice president of customer acquisition and marketing for Constant Contact, and was also previously general manager of website strategy for the company. Prior to Constant Contact, Josh worked for Staples, Inc., where he was responsible for guiding the development of Staples’ online advertising campaigns and sports marketing sponsorships. Josh also held management positions at Terra Lycos, Greater Boston Radio Group, and Kellogg Company. Josh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from Babson College, and a Masters in Business Administration from Colorado State University.

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