Marketers Have Yet to Fully Leverage Mobile's Potential

As the digital transformation sweeps through the industry, retailers — online and brick-and-mortar alike — find themselves in unfamiliar and uncharted territory. Retailers recognize that consumers are digital and mobile, and are constantly evolving their digital habits in response to new social and mobile technologies and capabilities. Retailers are put in the uncomfortable position of trying to adapt their tactics and strategies to a changing set of channels, and to understand how far they can push the bounds of mobile marketing in pursuit of the Holy Grail of location-based contextualized mobile marketing.

Mobile marketing is just one type of digital marketing, which also includes such technologies as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, analytics, digital media planning, video marketing, ecommerce platform services, and e-mail marketing.

Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices, according to nearly every piece of research. IDC forecasts that in 2016, 3.2 billion people will have access to the Internet, with more than 60% of these accessing the Internet via their mobile devices.

Retailers are eager to deliver relevant marketing to consumers via the mobile channel. The challenge to make this content relevant, timely, and engaging remains, however, to be elusive on so many levels, as retailers struggle to create marketing and advertising that can fit into micro moments with consumers, and resonate across channels.

Retailers are confronted with having to rapidly innovate to rise above the noise level in a hypercompetitive environment in an industry undergoing a massive amount of disruption.

While many retailers have been trying to take a direct line to consumers through their own branded mobile apps, there are signs that these are competing for consumers’ limited mobile real estate with a growing number of social media platforms. While consumers return again and again to their social media applications of choice, the same cannot be said for many retail applications. As spend on mobile marketing continues to grow, research shows that retailers may be directing a bigger portion of their budgets to social channels. As social media platforms have taken “center stage” on mobile devices, retailers need to increasingly think of marketing “to” consumers rather than “at” consumers.

Personalization is not just about aligning message to consumers’ gender, age, and style preferences, but also about delivering marketing that sounds more like a one-to-one dialogue than a mass marketing blast.

While mobile marketing can be used throughout the customer journey — inspiration, discovery, selection, and fulfillment and support — retailers need to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time to maximize offer acceptance and customer loyalty.

Editor's Note: This article was part of RIS News' "2016 Mobile Product & Solution Guide: Mobile Customers, Mobile Retailing, Mobile Generation" special report. The entire report including expert analysis from industry insiders and analysts is available for free download here.
Robert Eastman is research manager at IDC Retail Insights.
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