Once upon a time, there were three main places to advertise products and services: radio, television, and print. Although each of these methods offered an effective way to reach consumers, none of them provided a tangible way to gauge whether there was any real return on its investment. Success was based mostly on trial and error—with a good deal of intuition thrown in for good measure.
When personal computers and the Internet entered the picture, the first accurate marketing and advertising metrics were born. Suddenly clicks and click-through rates became the order of the day. But just as marketers began to make sense of Web-based advertising, an entirely new scenario has unfolded: a post-PC era filled with iPhones, iPads and Android devices delivering data 24x7x365 across a variety of mobile form factors.
Already, about 60 percent of Facebook and Twitter posts originate from mobile devices, and the iPhone has surpassed Microsoft Outlook at the leading e-mail client. “We’re witnessing a remarkable change that is altering the role of CMOs and other marketing professionals,” observed Todd Simmons, executive creative director at Wolff Olins, a brand consulting and marketing firm that has worked with the likes of Adidas, Frito Lay, Mercedes-Benz and Target. “The market is shifting under our feet as mobility, social media and big data become integral to a digital strategy.”
Getting a handle on this post-PC world is nothing less than daunting. Although the ability to communicate with customers has never been greater, connecting to them has never been tougher. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 45 percent of the Fortune 500 lacks a mobile optimized Web site. As Simon Barrell, CMO at NIP Group, a Woodbridge, N.J., insurance intermediary group, told CMO.com: “It’s like trying to cope with a series of moving escalators. Consumers are moving ahead so quickly that it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the changes.”
Amid all the disruption, one thing is certain: Organizations and marketers that embrace the post-PC world are more likely to boost bottom-line results. As smartphone apps, digital wallets, transactional marketing, social media, and mobile form factors move into the mainstream, there’s a need for new thinking and entirely new marketing methods. Stated Amanda MacArthur, partner at BuzzFarmers: “Customers are now coming from every direction—smartphones, Twitter accounts, Facebook feeds, and more. The new-age marketer needs to live on these mediums in order to market with them.”
Moving Beyond The PC
It’s mind boggling to ponder how radically the world has changed since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2008 and the iPad in 2010. Today, consumers rely on mobile devices for shopping, banking, entertainment, and a mind-boggling array of other uses. They carry these devices—particularly smartphones—with them at all times and use them for an ever-expanding array of functions. This has led to entirely different ways of buying and behaving. Not surprisingly, marketing methods and tools that worked in the past are increasingly ineffective.
Brad Hines, an independent social media and Internet analyst, said that marketers must address shorter attention spans, an accelerated half-life of content, extreme information overload, and a radically different mentality about engagement. No longer is it possible for an enterprise to view marketing as a one-way street. “Companies must adapt their marketing focus to more of a general presence and focus on engagement rather than selling. ‘Here’s our stuff, please buy it’ no longer works,” he told CMO.com.
At the same time, consumers increasingly demand dedicated mobile apps and seamless interaction across channels. They identify with brands that provide a ubiquitous view of purchases, loyalty points, coupons, and social media ties. Consumers want their favorite brands to follow them around everywhere, all the time, and they want to interact on their own terms. Meanwhile, they expect coupons and offers to be relevant and on target. As a result, personalized and location-based marketing techniques are sliding from the “desirable” to the “essential” category.
This new era also requires businesses to embrace social media in a deeper and broader way. It’s not enough to monitor Twitter for comments and feedback, or simply collect likes on a Facebook page. In fact, there’s a growing realization that numbers, traffic, and click-through rates don’t necessarily translate into bottom-line results. Social media must connect to big data initiatives as well as crowdsourcing, geolocation data, and advanced analytics. “These tools must be woven into the fabric of the entire organization in order to understand segments, influencers, and behavior,” said Prashant Malaviya, an associate professor of marketing at Georgetown University, in an interview with CMO.com.
In fact, mobility and social media are morphing with big data and analytics tools to create a sum greater than the individual pieces. For example, a growing number of firms are turning to social media to conduct research and polls in a far more efficient and timely manner. Social media also makes it possible to analyze data and understand competitors more effectively. When used effectively, these tools provide insights into consumer psychology and buying trends and help an organization manage pricing in a more dynamic way.
Mobile technology has also contributed to other challenges, including the rise of price-comparison apps and showrooming. Today, it’s painlessly simple to scan a bar code and view pricing information at retailers around town and across the Internet. “Pricing power has shifted heavily toward the consumer,” said Dan Kohn, vice president of corporate marketing at Pitney Bowes. The net effect for retailers and other businesses seeking to avoid a low margin environment is a need to differentiate their brand and products. “There must be a relationship between the marketer or seller and the customer based on value—where it’s rational or emotional,” Kohn told CMO.com.
Adobe senior product marketing manager Ray Pun told CMO.com that the biggest challenge for marketers is “realigning the marketing organization to focus on mobile channels versus desktop”; finding marketers who have expertise in mobile technology and mobile marketing; securing budget and IT resources to build mobile optimized sites and apps for multiple device types; and having expertise to mobile campaigns. It’s also necessary to have knowledge of how to analyze the effectiveness of mobile campaigns, including searches, display, SMS, and push messaging across sites and apps as well as devices.
Next Page: Making Connections Count
Connecting all the marketing dots is easier said than done, of course. At NIP Group, the new normal of the post-PC world is touching all corners of the business. Among other things, the company is focusing on better learning the personas of customer segments through social media and geolocation data. “It is helping us understand behavior, buying habits, and the way different groups use their devices,” Barrell said. “By knowing these personas, we are able to develop messages that are more appropriate and prioritize our marketing dollars.”
Pitney Bowes, meanwhile, is using QR codes—and offering a QR-code-generating tool online—so that businesses can direct customers and partners to unique and targeted landing pages. The pages can be used for everything from thought leadership to discount coupons. “It creates an entirely different dynamic for interaction that spans devices as well as the physical and digital worlds,” Kohn explained.
Mondelez International has also embraced the change. Bonin Bough, vice president of global media and consumer engagement for the company (formerly Kraft Foods), said that the manufacturer has shifted about 10 percent of its overall marketing budget to the mobile space. “We do not necessarily look at mobility as a channel,” he told CMO.com. “We view it more as another tool to change and improve customer engagement. Mobile devices allow a deeper and broader level of interaction.”
Bough notes that about 23 percent of all media now flows through mobile devices. On the other hand, businesses currently direct about 1 percent of their marketing budgets toward mobile marketing. Mondelez said he is looking to gain an advantage by forging stronger customer relationships and operating in a more agile way. The company recently introduced a program called Mobile Futures. Small entrepreneurial groups assigned to different brands, including Oreo, Trident, and Ritz, create mobile pilot projects and bring them to market within 90 days.
These 90-day start-ups are intended to rapidly incubate ideas and develop them into programs within the retail, social TV, social media, and SoLoMo spaces. The goal, Bough said, is to customize mobile marketing methods for each brand and break through the inefficiencies of a large, post-industrial age organization. “It’s all about reaching consumers with the right message and bringing everything closer to the point of purchase,” he noted. For instance, this might translate into a supermarket chain delivering a pop up e-coupon for a new product to a shopper who has bought similar products in the past.
To be sure, it’s critical to recognize that consumers—particularly younger mobile users—are demanding new ways to interact and buy things. At the same time, today’s form factors and technology provide marketers with tools to drive behavioral change. A prime example of this post-PC thinking is Starbucks. By combining a digital wallet with a loyalty program and making free music downloads and in-store media content channels available through smartphones and tablets, it has managed to build an entire brand ecosystem.
Georgetown’s Prashant said that organizations must think broadly and build digital marketing into the fabric of the business. “Right now, many organizations know it’s a big opportunity, they know their competitors are moving into the space, but they’re not sure how to proceed.” He recommends that marketing executives begin probing and exploring the space. Organizations that get a head start are more likely to thrive as the post-PC era takes hold, he argued.
The goal, Prashant said, is to identify key factors and triggers that create a high level of relevance and engagement for consumers. “That’s when you witness a significant impact on revenues,” he explains. Wolff Olins’ Simmons told CMO.com that marketers must eye today’s tools and capabilities in a less granular and myopic way. In this new digital era, he pointed out, marketing professionals must work more closely with engineers and others to tie marketing and products together more tightly and build a better brand.
The challenges and opportunities of the post-PC era aren’t going away. Adobe’s Pun said that it’s crucial to not only look at the costs and resources required to go mobile, but also the opportunity costs of missing the wave. “New companies who take a mobile first approach will emerge and disrupt existing businesses that have been too focused on PC/desktop,” he said. “The current complexity of creating, managing, executing, and analyzing mobile marketing will be reduced as software vendors provide solutions to these businesses.”
To be sure, the post-PC era is radically transforming marketing—and the business world. “Marketers must inject brand thinking into everything they do. They must consider how different tools work—and work synergistically—to create a more relevant and robust marketing strategy,” Simmons said. “It’s necessary to speak to consumers in the digital language they desire—while staying focused on executing a core marketing strategy.”