Smartphone adoption is accelerating in South Africa and the rest of the world. This is good news for digital marketers since it will bring more of our customers online in the next few years and give us more ways to reach and interact with those who are already online with Internet-connected PCs.
But it also means that we will need to rethink many of our fundamental assumptions in the digital marketing space since the Web experience on a smartphone is not exactly the same as the Web accessed through a personal computer.
There is a real opportunity for us to deepen our online interactions with some customers and to engage with others online for the first time, provided we develop clear mobile strategies across areas such as search, social media and email.
Consider the example of email. About four million South Africans already access email through their cellphones, according to the Mobility 2011 research from World Wide Worx. Yet most companies still design their email marketing messages on the assumption that their users will be viewing it on a PC. The amount of opportunities to connect and engage with customers lost because of a mail rendering as a complete mess on a feature phone or smartphone must be staggering.
The challenge here is to begin understanding how many of our customers are receiving emails on their phones and the way the behaviour of a cellphone email recipient differs from the way a user on a PC engages with us.
Do we need to segment our smartphone and PC email recipients? Or should we design plain text emails that are easy to read and engage with on any screen-size rather than sending out rich emails with lovingly designed graphical creative?
Understanding these points and tailoring your strategy could spell the difference between an unsuccessful and a successful campaign.
Search is another area where a one-fits-all approach across the mobile and PC platforms could hurt campaign ROI. A desktop Web browser is likely to be conducting deep research while a mobile user will probably need quick access and information.
If you’re a restaurant, you might want to direct a PC user to a landing page with a beautifully designed menu or images of your dishes and venue. A mobile user will probably want quick access to your phone number or directions.
Mobile search also offers some interesting potential through location-based services. For example, you might be able to geo-target down to the cellular base station level with a search ad. If a user is looking for a supermarket near a base station in Sandown, you might want to serve a relevant ad to him or her. Here, it’s all about understanding how users interact and engage on different platforms and tailoring your response to their needs.
Social media is another area to think about. Most of your customers – including the most engaged and active social media users – will be accessing Twitter, Facebook and so on through their mobile phones. You need to find a way of deciding which customers and issues you will respond to and how you will track customers through social media channels. How will you link your mobile and social CRM strategies? These are complex issues with no easy answers.
The points above just scratch the surface. What is important – between the side debates about which mobile platforms will win the smartphone war or whether native apps will win out over the Web; is understanding how to use the digital world to create deeper engagement with your customers that help you to meet your business goals.
Richard Mullins is director of Acceleration in Johannesburg.