Why Everything You “Know” About Mobile Marketing Is Wrong

Everyone knows just how important mobile is to the 21st century consumer. After all, we’re all consumers ourselves and we have first-hand experience of just how much we rely on our phones. Like country legend George Jones, we’re only using them once a day. Once a day, every day, all day long.

So it is certainly no surprise that major organizations in pretty much every vertical you can name are investing large sums in mobile. What many of them are not experiencing, however, is any form of meaningful success. Of course for many mobile is performing just fine, and for some it has been truly transformational. But there are plenty out there struggling.

Why is that? Well, each case is unique. But based on our broad experience over a number of years, we repeatedly come up against the same myths that continually undermine mobile projects. Here, in one easy-to-follow blog post, are the five mobile myths that do most damage, and how to avoid them!

Myth 1: Mobile Internet Is Good Enough.

I can understand why many organizations desperately want to believe this. After all, mobile internet can be controlled, edited, managed etc in the same way as desktop internet. It’s easy. It avoids the awkwardness of keeping two channels up-to-date. There’s only one problem: mobile internet sucks and consumers hate it. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg had to say on the subject.

There is absolutely nothing complicated about it. Consumers have dozens, even hundreds of apps on their phone. They have limited time. They aren’t in the business of spending that time with organizations that think sub-optimal user experiences are ‘good enough’. If you’re not on mobile app, then sooner or later your customers will find someone providing the same service who is. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Myth 2: A Sexy Mobile App Is Good Enough

Unfortunately not. A slick, well-designed mobile app is a necessary but not sufficient condition for mobile success. Why? Because mobile app discovery is about as broken as a piece of the mobile ecosystem can be in 2016. In fact (and here’s the real bad news), despite what was said above in most cases you’ll need to keep investing in mobile internet if only to redirect search traffic to your mobile app…

So if your plan of action is building an app and waiting for the world to find it, think again. The road to mobile hell is littered with award-winning mobile experiences that died a lonely death. So make absolutely sure you have an acquisition plan in place and don’t become one of them.

But it doesn’t stop there. It is also vital to understand that even the best app will wither on the vine if not updated, optimized, run operationally, and viewed more like a community destination that evolves with that community, rather than as a fixed utility. And on that note:

Myth 3: It’s All About Acquisition

I get it. I really do - I’m a marketer too. We all love spending money and watching numbers go up, and ‘new users’ is about all the average CEO cares about. But if you’re still obsessing over this metric (and to be fair, a good number of smart mobile businesses have moved on) I have news for you: you are looking for mobile success in all the wrong places.

Of course you need new users. But acquisition is expensive (like, really expensive) and until your retention process works you are effectively throwing water into a leaky bucket. Actually, scratch that - when you realize that 25% of app installs are used ONCE, and that only about 10% of new users come back a week later, we’re not talking about a bucket, we’re talking about a sieve. And forget the water, we’re throwing champagne down there.

So please, if you take one lesson from this piece make it this one: do everything in your power to make retention and engagement of existing mobile users your number one priority. Ask yourself whether one million users here today and gone tomorrow are really more valuable than 100,000 who are truly engaged. And when you’ve decided on the latter,  here’s some ideas.

Myth 4: Push Notifications Are A Great Way To Engage Users

Well, I had better tread carefully here because Swrve, after all, do sell the ability to send push notifications (among other things). And in truth, my point is a little more sophisticated and might be better put as “there are far smarter ways to engage users than via push notifications”. Here’s the deal - if the push notification is your first port of call, you really don’t have an engagement strategy at all. Here’s why.

When it comes to engagement, and indeed when it comes to marketing full stop, if we take marketing to mean “getting people to do what I want them to do”, every communications channel surrounding the mobile app plays a very, very distant second fiddle to the app experience itself. Your number one tool for managing and maximizing the mobile lifecycle is an ability to personalize, optimize and test the native app experience on the fly, and without the lengthy app store approval process. In second place are smart, targeted in-app campaigns that help with feature discovery and can be used for specific promotions.

And what of push notifications? Let me first say that there are many, many, smart and effective ways to use this technology. We help implement many of them for our customers. But in too many cases, push notifications are used as little more than a last desperate ‘come back’ when the user is already out of earshot. Tip - that doesn’t really work. Even when push notifications DO work, they need to be remembered that they are little more than the knock on the door. What happens next - from custard pie in the face to kiss on the lips - is up to the app experience itself.

Perhaps I’ve been too hard on push here, so in the spirit of balance, here’s a few ways to make them work.

Myth 5: Mobile Stands Alone

Last but certainly not least. The truth is you don’t really want a ‘mobile strategy’, you want a customer strategy, and that customer happens to be on mobile a lot of the time. If you are busy spending large amounts of time and money finessing mobile experiences that don’t talk to your online presence or offline systems, you are probably making a major mistake (pass here for mobile only organizations who don’t need to worry about this stuff!)

That doesn’t mean compromise in the sense of weak ‘non-native’ and generic experiences, but is does mean that your mobile data - ie what your customers do on mobile - needs to be available to your central system of record. And the opposite is true. Your mobile campaigns and the mobile experience your customer receives need to be informed by both their behavior on all channels and indeed data relating to the world around them.

That last point is key. Mobile is omnipresent, which is both a great benefit and a huge risk. If you know where your customer is, what the weather is like, and where they want to be in half an hour you can deliver truly relevant and helpful experiences. If you don’t bother making those connections, you are going to be the single most irritating app on their phone.

Don’t be that guy.