Mobile Strategy For The Holidays: Two Industry Insiders Answer 5 Critical CMO Questions
As the holiday season approaches at warp speed, how should you be boosting your mobile strategy? Columnist Scott Rayden shares some inside tips from a Q&A with two agency executives.
Mobile advertising is poised to make or break 2015 goals for millions of companies over the next six to seven weeks.
As we head into the holiday season, I posed a few critical questions to two of the brightest minds I know in mobile: Hathway CSMO Kevin Rice and 3Q Digital VP of Mobile Strategy Craig Weinberg. (Disclosure: Mobile agency Hathway is a 3Q Digital partner, and 3Q Digital is my employer.)
If you’re looking for any edge you can get in your holiday mobile campaigns, these guys have answers.
1. How Should Brands Be Thinking About Mobile Strategy For The Holidays?
Rice: With so much advertising noise leading up the holidays, it can be hard for a brand to break through it. As a result, brands that want to stand out need to consider all channels for reaching shoppers when they are in the “holiday spirit of giving.”
• Use mobile data to target consumers using contextually relevant factors. For example, mobile advertising avenues like The Weather Channel allow you to reach shoppers in store as they are checking the weather outside with relevant messages, such as, “It’s rainy outside, how about a pea coat for that special someone?”
Mobile data, by providing brands with context such as information on their consumers’ environments, affords them the ability to deliver a perfectly tailored and perfectly timed message.
• Make sure you rank for phrases consumers will be searching for. Brands should bump up their paid search ranking for longtail phrases like “gift ideas for teenagers” or “top gifts for kids” or “gifts for the friend who has everything.”
Lists like this hit big with consumers every year, and they’ll spend even more time researching gift ideas on their mobile devices this year. Even though most of these purchases will be made in store, mobile will be at the core of consumers’ path to purchase.
These strategies work because everything about mobile begins with its context. By understanding the consumer’s frame of mind, you can more effectively target them digitally with timely, actionable advertising.
Weinberg: Well, it’s mid-October. If you haven’t thought about it already, you may want to take this year off and start planning for 2016. But seriously, folks… the key is to plan early and often.
Your normal holiday planning and strategy shouldn’t “change” for mobile. Rather, ask how mobile can enhance your holiday campaigns and offers.
Think of how retailers/brands are using mobile these days: They’re engaging customers with coupon codes they can swipe on site; they’re offering deals and coupons that customers can use on desktop sites; they’re engaging customers with things like newsletter sign-ups throughout the year so that those folks can be targeted (and retargeted) in peak buying season.
Because people are on the go, because they are out of their daily routines and have a lot of planning to do (travel, cooking, gifting), mobile campaign messaging needs to be dynamic and fluid.
The holidays are the perfect time to execute the “moments” approach: Get to people with the relevant message at the relevant time.
You also need to think out of the box; since your users are being exposed to so many messages, why would they stop and listen to yours? What can you do to stand out?
2. What Mobile Strategy Changes Should Be Made To Best Take Advantage Of Holiday Traffic, Behavior And Engagement?
• Brands need to create marketing communications that speak to who the viewer is shopping for, not the viewer himself. To do this effectively, get more granular with your targeting.
For example, invest in better creative and more multifaceted testing to optimize your media spend (e.g., “Gift ideas for the person who has everything” or “Top 5 gift ideas for someone who loves the outdoors”).
• Make it easier to share products from one device to another. Bearing in mind that most people won’t purchase on their mobile device, an “email to myself” feature becomes as vital a CTA as the “check out.”
• Partner with retailers on in-store calls to action. If you are a consumer brand, collaborate with your retailers to deliver contextual push notifications in store for those who have mobile apps or beacons.
Weinberg: As with anything mobile (or anything digital, for that matter), start by making sure that your fundamentals are working!
Is your site set up properly? Can you handle the influx of traffic? Do you need to submit your app to the app store for updates?
Next, consider whether you actually should try to take advantage of the holidays. Traffic becomes more expensive, so if your product or service has no special relevance to the holidays, consider scaling down your budgets in November and December and re-investing that money in January.
Last, if you’re all in, remember that consumers are bombarded with messaging during the holidays. There’s more clutter than there is meaningful content/experiences. If you’re going to put budget behind your campaigns, make sure they’re resonant.
3. How Do You Think Mobile Behavior Will Be Different This Year From Last?
Rice: Last year, mobile was where the consumers were researching products. This nevertheless translated to only 22 percent of those consumers purchasing on their device.
This year, that number will likely increase to 34 percent, which is still small. This is because the mobile checkout process is still tedious and user-unfriendly at this point.
To make mobile the primary channel for holiday (and all) online shopping, brands’ mobile websites need to:
- Facilitate checkout within a few simple swipes, or
- Populate form fields via better integrations with TouchID
- Enable consumers to pay via ApplePay/Google Wallet (or Visa Checkout, Samsung Pay, PayPal)
Each of these factors is key to bringing the mobile shopper full circle — from research to purchase.
On the horizon, Near Field Communication (NFC) will also become more popular for instore marketing. Though this year is probably too early yet for NFC to fully come into play, by next year, consumers will have used Apple Pay more frequently — prompting a better understanding of how NFC works, thereby making it a viable marketing medium.
Weinberg: If anything, the marketplace will be more competitive because consumer reliance on mobile has grown. Expect less in-store traffic and more mobile traffic, and be prepared to invest more in mobile showrooming (Read: Best Buy vs. Amazon).
This isn’t so much about mobile behavior as it is about platform behavior, but it’s important to remember that the App Store rankings freeze during the last 10 days of December.
Many mobile companies scale down marketing expenses during that time period, since no matter how many new users they acquire, their app store ranking and reviews remain the same.
4. If You Could Give A Brand One Piece Of Mobile Advice For The Holidays, What Would It Be?
Rice: Start early. If you’re a retailer or brand with an app, this is a big opportunity to capture a larger share of your customers’ shopping lists.
Coordinating your app development cycles far in advance allows you to specifically align new feature releases with the holidays.
An example of such a feature could be recommendations for Christmas purchases. Facebook, especially when consumers give permission to connect it to an app, website or retailer, gathers information about what that person’s interests are.
In this case, you might need an additional layer of permissions, but careful consideration during the user experience design process could make this work. It can use this information to suggest gift ideas for your friends and family.
For brands, this is a valuable utility and lends itself nicely to a holiday-branded campaign and creative involving elves or the North Pole.
In fact, Target launched a wish list app for kids last year that “gamified” the experience, allowing children to create their wish lists in an interactive and visual fashion. Approaches like this will get more popular — and expand in capabilities.
Weinberg: Don’t forget January! Most brands are so overwhelmed by the holidays that they neglect to plan January’s budgets.
In January, the media rates decrease, people have new phones to play with, and there are many New Year’s resolutions to support (before they all fail). Don’t forget to take advantage of this opportunity to test and learn in a ripe environment.
5. How Will Technology Change The Future Of Holiday Shopping?
Rice: Within the next five to 10 years, the internet will convert from a “pull” to a “push” environment. Although today, we use a browser to search for what we want, the future holds an internet that’s so connected, all websites talk to each other.
This will create enough automated intelligence to allow mobile devices to deliver the content we need at a perfectly relevant moment, without us having to prompt it at all.
For example, imagine you purchase a ski trip close to the holidays on Expedia and then receive an email or push notification from REI about buying a new pair of boots for your wife because hers are ten years old.
In a case like this, if you went on to purchase the boots, Expedia could charge per API call — a huge opportunity for Expedia and brands like them that have large customer bases.
While it might sound creepy to some, Millennials and Gen Z are much more open when it comes to online privacy and receiving advertisements like this. The nice value exchange that results for both consumer and brand is the timely and relevant offers.
And with some tweaks to Terms of Service, combined with opening up web services across brands, this could be a reality.
The result? Brands and shoppers of the future will get what they value most. Shopping is not only going to be a lot easier in the future, it’s also going to be smarter.
Time we used to spend going store to store over the course of weeks has been reduced to browsing website to website over the course of days or hours. And soon, that time will be cut down by brands delivering us relevant information on exactly what we’re looking for to buy ourselves or loved ones, in mere minutes — or even seconds.
In this future, technology will give us the greatest gift of all: less time shopping for the perfect presents for those on our list and more time to spend with family, drinking eggnog and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”