The act of registering on a website is a transaction. The user offers personal information in exchange for something of value from the publisher: premium information, discounted goods and services, or convenience. In this transaction, the user’s tacit assumption is that the publisher will not exploit personal information, such as an email address; if the publisher sends too many emails to the user in response, for instance, the user will most likely disengage (unsubscribe/opt-out).
However, across many different kinds of publishers online, the rate of web registration has recently decreased significantly on PCs. Customers have lost trust in the process for a variety of reasons: security, user-unfriendliness, loss of value to the customer in the transaction. Targeting has not improved as much as it should, with the result that customers are inundated with irrelevant requests and offers, which they are ignoring.
Mobile computing – computing devices with embedded apps, such as smart phones, tablets, game consoles, etc. – offers a great opportunity to provide much better value to the customer, promising earlier and more sustained engagement, whether via subscription, opt-in, or other forms of tactical microtransaction.
Currently, too many publishers involved with mobile engagement are quickly losing customer trust even on these new platforms; their reliance on traditional PC engagement techniques have proven far too intrusive in a mobile environment. It is far more likely such intrusiveness will rapidly lose the customer’s trust, and engagement, on mobile than on any other platform. The right approach to mobile engagement thus requires special expertise and attention.
We’ve seen platforms evolve over the years, from desktop systems to portable laptops. Why is mobile different?
Jonathan: With the advent of the smartphone, I can now access all of my documents and web information from a much smaller device. Mobile and tablet devices have really affected the user experience. If I think about purchase patterns that now exist for consumers, often users will start to research a product on their mobile, move to their tablet to get more detailed information and read reviews, and then may use a laptop or desktop to make the online purchase, or increasingly, may even complete the transaction entirely within a smartphone or tablet environment. The level of trust and security between user and device has also increased. Consumers trust engagement in the smartphone/tablet environment in ways they couldn’t, historically, with online, web-based transactions. Smartphones thus achieve a step forward in both integration and security of personal information that result in a more seamless, easy-to-engage process.
Jeff: The app has made mobile more productive. It’s made our smartphone easier and faster for many specific tasks. Think about how easy it is to monitor flight status, change seats, request upgrades, join standby or check in by phone – all while on the go. I’m still likely to use a PC to book my flights (although the websites still take too many steps) but for these other on-the-go specific use cases, the app has tailored the experience to make my life better. It knows where I am and creates short cuts. I can engage in a variety of activities around a specific goal with fewer steps, and a more integrated result, one I can easily retain and transport.
So, you’re more likely to register with a publisher on mobile?
Jeff: As a road-warrior, I’m willing, and even excited, to volunteer information for these benefits. These are valuable services and worth the barter. These apps are changing consumer sentiment towards sharing their information, and companies should be focused on creating strategies that create trustworthy benefits for consumers – benefits that require them to register and share. There is a big do over here for most companies. If you can provide trusted value, consumers will login as themselves everywhere they interact with your brand and content. Then you can treat them as the same person on all devices. Then the experience is even better.
The relationship on mobile is clearly different from those possible on other platforms; how would you characterize that difference?
Doug: Building that relationship with your customer in their digital, mobile life is really an exciting opportunity for the consumer now, as well as the company selling. Done properly, content can be hyper-relevant, hyper-frequent, hyper-localized. All of the hyper x possibilities are based on the fact that you have a one-to-one conversation chance through this mobile medium, where both parties know each other pretty well. You have to treat your customer as a partner in that conversation. You as a seller/app provider have a chance to get to know who that customer on that phone screen is, but you also have to know they’ll want something more than just your goods or service in return, to give you the details of who they are.
The different mind-set moving from the PC world of having users register and provide data to the mobile device world is that the mobile device has become much more intimate to us than the TV or PC ever was. These phones are our wallets, holders of the personal effects of our lives, like our photos, and we use apps to make life ‘quick and easy’ wherever we are. Sellers thus have to respect the more intimate, personal nature of that environment in any kind of transaction they intend to engage the customer with.
What other kinds of integration value does mobile provide for the customer?
Doug: Mobile devices, primarily our smartphones, bring two key pieces of successful marketing and advertising to bear at a hyper level – highly personalized relevance and carefully calculated frequency of the message to a current or potential client – if companies implement the right strategy. Hyper-relevance because the seller of a good or service has an opportunity to combine volunteered, specific demographic information about the user/owner of a specific device with very detailed geographic information that may even signal intent. Hyper-frequency meaning that you can create a trusted relationship in which you directly ask when, and how often, you should provide relevant offers, at times which are in harmony with the customer’s overall daily activities.
It seems that mobile is thus providing value in the engagement process unavailable to previous platforms.
Jeff: I also feel that we as consumers are beginning to understand that value in a way we were resistant to on the PC. Buying books, music and movies with one click is teaching us that sharing information can benefit us as consumers. We probably consume/buy more because it’s easier and takes less time. That’s a win win.
How does the combination of actively shared location and personalization info change the way a company can engage with a customer?
Doug: Anheuser Busch buys advertising around NFL football games because of the broad stroke connection between beer buyers and football fans. And, that works OK because AB sells a lot of beer. But how improved could the ROI on marketing spend be when you can know exactly who drinks Bud Light or Michelob normally and exactly when they are parking at a grocery store? Of course, it is the branding piece that gets them to prefer your products; but now, the opportunity to connect the right message at the right place at the right time becomes the part of the cycle where you can get them to take an action and buy your product – send them a coupon offer right before they go into the store.
Don’t you risk overburdening the customer with engagement, now that you have better targeting info in the transaction? What can be done to avoid that?
Doug: If I’m the Regal Theatre chain, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of sending a coupon for a soda or popcorn at the movie to someone every day if they are only likely to go to the movies every other month. It’s OK – and possible now – to ask your customer how often they plan on going to the theatre. In fact, I think people feel like you care a little more and are listening to them if you directly ask them when they want to be sold to. If they say once a month, maybe you could get them there 2x a month if the popcorn was free the second trip – but don’t think that a daily popcorn offer is going to do anything but get you ‘uninstalled’ from their device.
As publishers include mobile in the mix, what kinds of adjustments do they have to make?
Jonathan: The user has become much more sophisticated. On the one hand, there is less tolerance for apps and ads that distract. But on the other, users will happily reward a publisher for something of value. It’s really a matter of trust. If Amazon.com provides a personalized and simple shopping experience, a customer will be more likely to store their credit card information with the retailer. And if they know that returning items is painless, they will set up a one-click purchase process. It’s a win-win. The customer gets a better experience, and Amazon tightens the gap between purchase intent and transaction. Tightening this gap between purchase intent and transaction is what all companies want to do, and Amazon does it very well.
How should marketers approach mobile?
Doug: If as a consumer I’m getting some sort of valuable knowledge or entertainment from your company through my mobile device, likely an app, then I’m willing to tell you more about me to get more knowledge or entertainment. Marketers should be thinking about their roles as content creators. The ‘always on’ mobile world of information can really change the dynamics of the relationship between a company and a consumer. Buying will happen, but from whom the customer buys is now based just as much on who they feel they are ‘friends’ with, if not more, than because of some non-product or service connection they’ve been offered – in other words, customers always want well-targeted content to consume in an always on world. Buying now becomes almost a side-effect of a well-established, good relationship, based on the seller’s provision of compelling content generated to contextualize the engagement. People tend to want something most when they see it as part of a compelling story.
What are some things publishers should avoid with mobile?
Doug: One of the biggest head-scratchers I see going on in the digital, specifically mobile, space is the use of proxy logins through Facebook or Twitter. It seems that marketing and advertising functions within a company should be making the investments, that aren’t really large investments, to ask people to directly tell them (register) for the content provided in an app. Keeping someone else as the connection point for that ‘one-to-one’ conversations seems like an unneeded layer – as the father of teenagers coming quickly into the world of being independent consumers, for example, I find they are more than willing to ‘sign up’ directly with more folks than just Facebook.
Final question: will mobile rebuild user trust?
Jonathan: Success in mobile is really about two, simple things: trust, and seamlessness. The fewer steps a customer has to take, the easier and more compelling it is to engage, the less distraction there is from customer intent in the process, the better and more sustained the relationship will be. It really is as simple as that.