First there was the ‘Information Age’ and then the ‘Digital Age’ and now it’s the ‘Mobile Age’! Mobiles have totally changed the way we interact with the world and with each other and how we spread and consume information.
There is no other communication platform that is so personal, pervasive and is always in proximity with us. And now, it’s becoming the most ‘persuasive’ medium as well! We are today communicating, shopping, interacting, searching, playing, traveling, reading, connecting and discovering the world and each other with our mobiles. It’s changed our behaviour forever and made our world more connected, more real-time and more convenient than ever before!

What does this mean for marketers?
It means we can now create experiences for consumers which are more personalised, more context-aware and delivered in real-time. It also means we have the best possible medium to deliver experiences that engage and delight our consumers. However, we need to first harness this new wealth of data that this medium is capable of providing…and that requires a shift in mind set as well as in our marketing approach to how well we want to acquire, serve and retain our customers. If we are able to do this, we will be delivering more marketing revenue than ever before!

Of late, we are seeing and witnessing signals of this corporate re-engineering and adoption of mobile-enabled business models in many companies today in India. Of course, the internet companies have been the first to realize the business potential of this medium, be it Flipkart, Amazon, Uber or Ola…but even the brick and mortar companies are slowly but steadily undergoing a digital transformation, be it in the retail, banking or travel space!
In India, we are literally skipping the internet ecommerce stage and are moving on to the mobile commerce stage much faster and more rapidly than most European countries. But there are lessons to be learnt and trends to be aware of as we accelerate on this mobile highway:

1. Apps will give way to a more holistic customer experience
– If you look at the number of apps you have downloaded on your smart phone, honestly tell me how many of those you are using regularly (or, at all) after downloading. Some researches indicate that we really use only 5 apps regularly. That’s because we will soon have app-fatigue. This will also mean that mobile users will be looking for an end-to-end solution or an integrated experience across devices. This means we will continue depending on mobile apps, but live outside them to simplify consumer engagement. For example, if you are a user of Google Now you will see how it integrates information in real time from many sources…and customises it to your requirements. That one App is more useful than having separate apps for each service I need!

2. Marketers will need to form a mobile ecosystem strategy to fulfil customer expectations
– It’s not just devices that need to integrate, it’s also what partnerships have we built outside our solution that is able to deliver that integrated experience. An Airline company will need a partnership with other services such as Hotels and Car rentals and with payment platforms to be able to provide a seamless and integrated service to its travellers.

3. Focusing on mapping the Customer journey will be key to mobile marketing
– With mobile, the power balance has tilted in favour of the consumer and we need to orchestrate a customer experience that unfolds overtime, across multiple channels and according to what the customers’ individual behaviours and preference are, as opposed to a single channel campaign…and using analytics to devise tactics, track and segment customer response and measure success. Marketing leaders should evaluate consumers’ appetites for real-time offerings, flash sales, in-app purchases, and usage-based pricing and should test dynamic pricing based on location and time of day. In doing so, we will be delivering an experience that is seamless, highly personal and always relevant. For the company, this provides a competitive advantage, marketing efficiencies, higher customer satisfaction and greater profitability.

4. Unifying mobile technologies will be key for providing a positive experience
– The solution isn’t in buying and implementing individual mobile technologies such as SMS, mobile email, Push notifications or Passbook but the opportunity lies in unifying mobile technologies and delivering orchestrated experiences that leverage signals from all channels (including connected devices). Mobile also opens new frontiers for interaction through such techniques as QR and barcode scanning, checking product details by snapping and uploading a photo, using mobile devices as “wallets” for digital payments and reaching a service agent with a “click to call” feature in a mobile app. These experiences speak to the customers based on who they are as individuals and how they’re interacting with your brand in their moments of need.
– A unified, a consistent multi-channel strategy is the best way to create a brand engagement that drives loyalty as well as profitability.

5. Mobile moments will shrink to micro moments
– A Forrester study defines micro moments as those mobile moments that require only a glance to identify and deliver quick information that customers can either consume or act upon immediately. Consumers will still look to apps for complex tasks, but increasingly, they expect brands to anticipate their needs with micro moments, powered by contextual data and executed with push notifications in the form of text messages, audio to spur them into action. Along with product recommendations personalized to user history and in-session behaviour, content recommendations can be valuable in appealing to customers looking for reviews and more.

A hypothetical example of a mobile orchestrated campaign for a shoe store to bring these thoughts to life:
A major Branded shoe retailer operates both online and in-store. Based on product/offer search on mobile site, the retailer knows the customer is looking for a bargain deal. The customer walks into a bricks-and-mortar shoe store with a sign up front announcing 20% OFF all shoes to those who text “SHOES” to the retailer’s mobile short code. When the customer does so, he immediate¬ly receives an SMS with a short, branded URL that links to a coupon of 30% special discount for in-store purchase. They don’t have his size. But it’s no problem. After booking his new pair of shoes, he receives a mobile-optimized email thanking him for his booking. When the product ships, he receives a push notification alerting him to the status and estimated arrival date. He gets another push when the shoes are delivered to his door and he makes a cash on delivery payment.

Not only has the customer received a great deal on a product he wants, but also the process is transparent, in real time, and totally customer-oriented. In India, Adidas and Reebok are on the path to pursue this omni-channel strategy and reports indicate that by 2017 all their stores will be omni-channel ready! That’s a forward looking strategy!

In sum, Mobile marketing is here to stay. We need to seize this opportunity. Yes, it will require shifts in mind set and technology. Confusion over mobile technologies, funding limitations and a “wait and see” mind-set has kept mobile from a fast start with marketers. But unless we’re satisfied with the status quo, taking a bold approach to mobile will pay off — both for our customers and for our brand!

Rajat Sethi is Managing Partner of Strategic Caravan International, a leading CRM & Loyalty consultancy firm. Formerly, he has been CEO of Wunderman India, M.D. of Dentsu Marcom, President of MRM and Executive Director of Readers Digest.

IBM White Paper: Mobile Marketing: The time is now
Oracle: The Mobile Marketers Guide to Mobile
Forrester Research: Most Brands will underinvest in mobile