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12 Things You Can Do Today to Get Your Mobile Strategy off the Ground

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) have embraced mobile/social advertising. However, only a small percentage of them view mobile apps as a significant opportunity to break out from the clutter.

One of the most cited reasons for this is that SMEs don’t quite understand how effectively mobile apps could be used to promote their businesses. Moreover, they find building apps an expensive and time-consuming process.

When asked about the use of mobile in business, Greg Stuart, CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association, replied: “There’s a knowing-versus-doing gap. They know they need to do it, but how do they do it?

So, in an attempt to address the “knowing-versus-doing gap,” we’ll analyze 13 things you can do to adopt a powerful mobile strategy with little effort. Then, if you’re still at a loss after reading this, we have a date for your diary: July 21-25, 2014. Check out the first SME Mobile Strategies SuperSummit, a week long live, online event with top speakers including HootSuite, Facebook, Salesforce, UserTesting, and many more.

1. Advertise on Social Media

According to Flurry, we spend 80% of our time on apps and 20% on mobile browsing. An impressive 17% of our mobile actions happen within the Facebook app, and the giant social network has become the most adopted mobile browser in terms of consumer time.

There is no need to say that engaging with customers on social media has become essential in this mobile era, but organic reach on Facebook is no longer enough to connect a brand with its fans, as stated by the company itself (reported by Ad Age in November 2013):

We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.

So, what should SMEs do in order to boost their mobile content through social media? With growing complaints of users finding the News Feed spammy, and more and more people abandoning Zuckerberg’s creation, Facebook has announced a series of improvements to force brands to create engaging content. Amazing feeds will boost a company’s fan base as a natural process. In a second phase, promoted posts can be a means for collecting more and more engaged “likers.”

Robin Hamman, Director of Social Business and EMEA Digital Network Coordinator at FleishmanHillard, has become convinced of the effectiveness and efficiency of this new approach in social advertising:

“We’ve recently found a lot of interest and success in an approach to paid social (e.g., advertising) that works really well for our clients. Namely, we pair a community manager / content producer with a data analyst and a media buyer. When we see content getting organic traction (via the analytics), we reactively craft related social/display ad copy and put some media spend behind it so as to increase reach and engagement among similar audiences. I guess you could call it real time social advertising.”

time spent on iOS and android devices

2. Gather Social Media Intelligence

According to HootSuite experts, social media monitoring in a mobile environment is essential for turning insights into action at the right moment. Instagram, Pinterest, and other highly visual social networks may be the first touch point to brands for customers around the world. Every day, social media users produce an additional 500 million tweets on Twitter, create 4.5 billion more “Likes” on Facebook, and share 55 million new photos on Instagram. And, more data flows from Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other social networks.

Listening to this social buzz can make the difference in gaining awareness about customers, competitors, and campaigns. Social media intelligence is essential to every company that wants to engage with customers in real time and on the move, and then apply insights to team activities across the organization.

3. Integrate Customer Engagement and Business Processes

During Salesforce1 tour, a lot of attention has been put on the concept of “internet of customers”: people (and their needs, behaviors, and habits) determine the way brands should address them and reach them. That’s why mobile has become so important for connecting and engaging everyone and everything, everywhere. Salesforce1 Customer Platform is focused on mobile and aims to connect two critical elements to improve sales: customer engagement and business processes.

A beautiful inspiring design and immediate, user friendly access to personalized preferences and settings are key factors for boosting your client retention. On the other hand, sales are not just about marketing; they’re about managing business processes in the most effective way so that your company can answer to customer needs at the right time and place. Mobile apps are an essential tool for every company because they allow you to collect customer feedback, analyze their habits, and predict their needs, thus empowering real time marketing operations, continuous brand building, and automated employee responses.

4. Use Facebook Mobile App Install Ads

Since Facebook launched the app suggestion ad format late last year, it is becoming THE app install driver, according to IAB UK. Half of the top grossing apps on the App and Play Store use Facebook App Install ads, and developers says these ads reduce acquisition costs by 15% to 60%. In the first 9 months of 2013, Facebook has driven 145m apps, and revenues have risen from 25 million in Q1 to 74 million in the last quarter.

More and more companies are pushing their apps on the famous social network, but to stand out from the crowd and catch a user’s attention, a simple screenshot of your app is no longer enough. To get the most out of Facebook, brands need to engage in a Facebook-like way: capturing images of products or people enjoying a service, fun and captivating claims, and explicit calls to action.

In addition, Facebook has recently added new features to target specific audiences and get new users, like Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, and Partner Categories. According to eMarketer, app install ads constitute between 30 and 50 percent of the mobile advertising market, excluding search, and will reach $11 billion in the U.S. by 2017.

5. Test before Launch

Every app’s development process is a very expensive and time-consuming operation, and coders know how important it is to perfect a service before it hits the app store. Avoiding bad reviews by testing user reactions can be crucial to a company’s app success, and there are different tools for analyzing your app before it goes on the market: focus groups, 1:1 interviews, and innovative digital platforms.

UserTesting recruits a sample of participants and allows developers to test user journeys and overall usability and to ensure that icon and button designs are easily understood, etc. If testers don’t like the final version of your app, you can collect specific feedback on the features you need to improve and then refine them again and again, to make sure your app won’t get bad ratings on the store.

6. Develop a “Mobile Power Team”

In 2013, Emesa, Holland’s largest e-commerce group, hired Pleo, a digital agency founded by the mobile guru Renate Nyborg, to help them become a Mobile First company, starting with its hero site VakantieVeilingen.nl. The success of this project highlighted an important issue: adopting mobile is not just about developing apps or a responsive website. It’s also about managing every step of your business’s mobile evolution with the help of a highly skilled Mobile Power Team.

In other words, you should rely on dedicated resources that review mobile statistics and metrics, monitor mobile-specific budgets, develop consumer insights through focus groups and surveys, monitor competitors’ investment in mobile, etc.

7. Improve App Store Ratings

Getting a deep insight into app user behavior is the key to accommodating customer needs. Companies can manage huge flows of data using services like Localytics, a closed-loop app analytics and marketing platform that helps brands acquire, engage, and retain users.

When an app is on the app store, improving ratings is a vital factor. If users aren’t satisfied, it’s important to start a conversation and learn why, in order to turn the brand’s biggest critics into loyal fans. If they love a company’s app, they can be turned into evangelists. Gather opinions, solve problems, and develop meaningful relationships with customers. It is easier than it seems thanks to in-app feedback forms and tools like Apptentive.

8. Put Customer Needs First

Forget about one-size-fits-all strategies and ask yourself: “What do my mobile customers need?” With an increase of 70% in U.S. smartphone adoption over the past 2 years, mobile devices have become by far the favorite device for consumers to interact with businesses 24/7, from anywhere – at home, at work, on a bus.

Every company should embrace an always-on behavior and develop services that can meet mobile-specific needs and allow geotargeted services. Waze gathers crowdsourced information by its users “on the ground” to give real time updates on traffic, accidents, and gas station prices. HotelTonight offers last minute discounted rooms at quality hotels, allowing consumers to save up to 70% and hotels to fill those rooms that otherwise would remain empty.

9. Build Both Apps and Mobile Sites

Apps and mobile sites serve different purposes, and they address different audiences: while mobile apps are for loyal customers who need a faster and easier way to interact with brands, mobile sites simplify the shopping experience and provide specific on-the-go services, basic information, and contact details.

Developing a responsive website, with a mobile-first approach is crucial for appearing in internet searches, boosting visits, and engaging with new customers. On the other hand, mobile apps are one of the most powerful tools for increasing retention, by offering exclusive benefits such as discounts, promotions, and breaking news.

Comparing engagement on apps versus the web across more than 600 brands, Adobe found that tablet users spent on average 24 minutes per app session, while smartphone sessions are much shorter (nearly 13 minutes). Compared to those browsing websites, however, the app sessions are 3-4 times longer.

time spent per mobile session

10. Consider Time, Location, and Type of Device

When planning your business’s mobile strategy, you should keep in mind that different environments are responsible for the use of different devices. For example, tablet and computer usage peaks in the evening at home, while smartphone usage is spread throughout the day, with outstanding peaks in rush hours (when most people presumably are commuting) and at lunch breaks.

This is why a deeper understanding of the specific circumstances (time, location, type of device) in which your customers interact with your brand can help you optimize your marketing campaigns to deliver the right message, to the right people, in the right format.

11. Implement a Multi-screen Marketing Strategy

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, we have witnessed a surge in multi-screen behavior. With over 40% of smartphone users watching TV while browsing a smartphone, it’s not surprising that many brands have begun to feature mobile use cases in TV ads, hoping that their consumers will check out their offers as a result of seeing the ad.

Therefore, brand campaigns that rely on multiple screens can achieve reach and conversions unparalleled by single-screen campaigns. This is why by adjusting your marketing campaigns by device, location, and time of day, you will be able to deliver relevant content to different segments of your audience, thus maximizing ROI.

12. Capitalize on Market Trends

Looking at recent market trends, it’s clear that mobile is exploding and companies that don’t take action now to adopt mobile operations will miss a great opportunity to reach their audience and will struggle to compete in the near future.

According to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey, consumers in developed markets have access to between four and eight portable devices connected to a mobile network, and these rates are constantly growing. While laptop sales are declining, smartphone and tablet sales don’t seem to diminish, even in highly penetrated markets, primarily because of replacement cycles, advances in technology, declining prices, and continuous expansion of the user base.

Portio Research (March 2013) estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide were using mobile apps at the end of 2012. This number is forecast to grow 29.8% each year and reach 4.4 billion users by the end of 2017. Much of this growth will come from Asia, which will account for almost half of app users in 2017.

users of mobile apps worldwide by 2017

During Mobile World Congress 2014, researchers at Nielsen have given new insights on the mobile landscape, noting that not only is smartphone penetration growing, with over two-thirds (67%) of mobile subscribers in the U.S. owning smartphones in Q4 2013, but time spent using phones has dramatically increased thanks to entertainment and social media mobile content, in U.S., U.K., and Italy now exceeding Web usage on computers.

Americans spent 34 hours using smartphone apps and mobile sites in December 2013, up six hours from December 2012. With more than 41 hours on smartphones, Britons were the most mobile-connected population in December 2013. Italians stayed mobile about twice as long (37 hours) as they spent on the Web via their PCs (18 hours) in the same period.

SMEs should take into account an important factor: people seem to use portable devices mainly to have fun and interact with friends and their favorite brands. The majority of time Americans use apps is spent playing games (18%), accessing entertainment (15%), or using social media (29%). In the U.K., more than one in four minutes on smartphones is spent using social networking apps.

Conclusions

With mobile device sales unlikely to diminish in the near future and app usage constantly growing all over the world, companies are facing a unique opportunity to reach their customers and engage with them in the most effective way ever. The potential of mobile communication is still only partially exploited, and there are thousands of cases proving it a successful strategy.

It’s time for SMEs to recognize a dramatic change in the adoption of mobile. Coding skills and high budgets are no longer an obstacle, with mobile becoming more and more accessible in the last couple of years. Social media is being accessed mostly via mobile apps, which are becoming the main real time communication channel between brands and users.

People want to play an active role in company operations, and interaction via mobile apps provides a great opportunity to listen to customer needs and apply insights directly into business processes. With consumers connecting 24/7 to a variety of portable devices, messages need to be responsive, and not just in terms of design. Mobile communication is full of new opportunities not to be missed. That’s why every SME should adopt an overall mobile strategy, supported by dedicated resources making it possible for them to manage and monitor operations and results.

About the Author: Daniele Pelleri is the Co-Founder and CEO of AppsBuilder, an innovative mobile publishing and distribution platform that empowers SMEs and large enterprises to build a solid mobile presence, reach new customers, and improve client retention through powerful mobile apps. AppsBuilder’s vision is to give everyone the chance to have a fully functioning mobile presence without the need for complex coding knowledge. Sign up for a free trial or find out more in their resource center.

  1. I believe you missed the most important advice for small businesses: start with a mobile optimized web experience and nail that before considering apps.

    The conventional wisdom for eCommerce sites and businesses in particular – and there’s consumer data to back this up – aside from the very largest brands and with perhaps the exception of a very well planned and executed functional app – consumers are shopping merchants’ websites on their phones – NOT via apps.

    Even for mid-sized merchants this is the way to go. There are several options for accomplishing this – with responsive web design quickly becoming the industry standard – especially if you’re starting a new site or planning a redesign. And Google has identified responsive as the best option from an SEO perspective.

    The bottom line: Start with making sure your website or online store is optimized for mobile browsing – and buying.

  2. I should temper my previous comment – based on an eMarketer report citing a study by app analytics firm Flury – while consumers in the US spend more time in apps, mobile websites are where consumers funnel their funds. The study goes on to say “For example, 55% of the adult shoppers polled in a December 2013 survey conducted by Baynote and the e-tailing group said they used their smartphone to make a holiday purchase directly on a website… Comparatively, only one-third sealed the deal using a retailer-branded app.”

    I would still suggest that with the added SEO benefits of mobile optimized responsive sites that the mobile web is the place to start for small to medium-sized eCommerce merchants.

    Once you have a solid customer base developing an app may be a good way to drive engagement and repeat purchases.

    • Jack Schofield Sep 05, 2014 at 9:04 am

      I agree. There are at least 50,000 companies (maybe 500,000) that would like smartphone users to install their app. That isn’t going to happen. “App fatigue” is already a thing….

  3. Krish TechnoLabs Sep 05, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Looking to current strategy, It’s clear that e-commerce via mobile devices is rapidly growing. Choosing between responsive design and an app is a quite difficult.

  4. Yeah I personally always thought it made way more sense to focus on your mobile web experience than to spend too much time on an app. Of course it depends on what you’re doing. I might also be biased because I don’t like the idea of having to deal with “app store gates” – it’s nice to be free and in control of your entire experience, which is what mobile web apps allow you to do.

  5. Usman Rafique Sep 27, 2014 at 12:12 am

    About website or app debate, we need to understand that websites were made for Desktop and for big screens. Mobile websites require same resources and thinking that goes into making Apps. The advantage of App is access to more device resources and money for the device maker or the OS provider. The advantage of mobile website will be portability and resource savings. Due to these inherent advantages, both models will keep on going.

  6. Great article, I agree with everything you’ve written. In my daily workflow, I use Mediatoolkit.com for (social) media monitoring and I highly recommend it, because it enables me to be careful around the challenges you mentioned. :)

  7. Great Article! Totally agreed, mobile site and mobile app provides a great advantage to a businesses. Every time a person will look at your App, Your business will strike their mind. Thus more focus should e paid on mobile site and mobile app in your mobile marketing strategy in order to drive more engagement.

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