The Role of Mobile in Marketing Communications in the UK
Current trends in marketing communications industry emphasise how important it is to be a customer-centric business. The size and turnover does not matter here, the only difference will be the tactics that you use to communicate with the audience and keep them happy. According to Calin Gurau, “...the increased fragmentation of media and customers, as well as the revolution introduced in mass communication by the new communication channels – internet and mobile communication technologies – has created the need for a new approach to marketing communication, that can insure centralised management and a consistency of corporate messages sent towards various audiences.” (Gurau, 2008)
This paper is aimed to investigate how the mobile communication approach evolutionised during the last decade and analyse where it has led us in 2016. After a thorough research it has become clear that the majority of the research available is carried out in the US making it hard to find appropriate information specifically for the UK. Therefore, the decision was made to concentrate on the UK sources rather than US or international for better understanding of the UK consumer behaviour and, therefore, of the position that marketers are in. Because of the growing importance of customer-centricity, a good understanding of how to communicate with your customers and, more importantly, how they communicate with each other using mobile communication channels is a key to successful advertising and marketing communications campaign. It means that such thing as geographical specification will certainly make difference on the outcomes of the research.
Jonna Holland (2010) suggests 5 main implications for mobile marketing communications:
3. Location sensitivity
5. Consumer controlled interactivity
Being ubiquitous means that now everybody is “always on”. By communicating with customers through mobile companies now are able to reach their them 24/7 regardless of their location. “No other form of media can be accessed by consumers in so many different places.” (Holland, 2010) Consumer, on the other hand, also want to have an opportunity to reach a customer service any time and receive help as soon as possible. Writing and reading each other reviews online and having an opportunity of doing it “on the go” on their mobile also became a part of the customer experience. Failing to provide an excellent service or customer support as soon as possible could lead to a negative customer review that will influence other customer's decision much stronger than most of the advertising campaigns.
Immediate response within mobile communication channels also play an important role and allows get need information in real time, which can immediately influence the ongoing campaign or, for example, how popular the offer is. The response rate to mobile message is always high and instant.
Location sensitivity has become one of the most important features of the mobile communication channels. With GPS 3G and 4G, IP addresses, and geolocation on social media the segmentation today is much more specific and accurate than has ever been, providing numerous opportunities of how it can be used in an advertising or marketing communications campaigns. “Mobile services use information on consumers' spatial position for generating location-sensitive messages, offers, and market differentiation (e.g., different offers and prices for film downloads)”. (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010)
Mobile phone is the most personalised medium due to its nature. Such personalization allows to send a highly targeted message “...to individual consumers based on their interests, needs, preferences (and as mentioned above, location in time).” (Holland, 2010)
The last but not least characteristic is consumer controlled interactivity.
According to Holland (2010), “...messages can be two-way, multi-way (conferencing and viral effects), co-created, and co-experienced.” It becomes possible and effective when it is built on ubiquity, immediacy, location sensitivity and personalization that were mentioned before. All of them combined create a flawless customer experience, which leads to the success of the overall campaign.
Holland's approach can be expanded by theory suggested by Sumant Mishra and Dr. Rajinder Gupta in 2012, that the communication modes in a mobile context into 3 categories:
3. Interactive communication as illustrated in the table below:
Regardless of how fast smartphones are being improved, they still remain primarily a communications device. Ofcom Communications Market Report (2015) finds that “...a third (33%) of internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online, compared to 30% who are still sticking with their laptop.” The use of Mobile overtaken desktop for the first time ever in the UK in 2015, which means that marketing communications professionals cannot afford to ignore the fact that being mobile-friendly is important to their business performance. Yet in 2016 you still can come across website that are not optimised for a mobile use and impossible to navigate on your smartphone or tablet. Not having a mobile-friendly version of a company's website is not just a missing opportunity anymore, but a mistake that can lead to the lost of the profit and, more importantly, customers.
The aforementioned report provides a lot of other statistics from last year. For example, “...email (85%) and text messaging (84%) are the two most common methods of contact used to communicate with family and friends on a monthly basis.” (Ofcom, 2015) The genuinity of these numbers can be confirmed by the other source such as Statista (as from October 2015) where email and SMS are dominating the mobile communication services with 69% and 88% respectively:
This is big difference with comparison to 39% of Twitter usage and 63% of the use of instant messaging.
The numbers for the use of mobile technology growing rapidly every year. Not only bigger and easier to use smartphones and tablet screens made that happen but also such things like social media. While almost all social media platforms has the desktop version it is mainly used “on the go” with their mobile applications. By looking on another Statista chart below, it can be clearly seen that the amount of time that is spent on social media is still much bigger in comparison to any entertainment activities or online shopping:
It needs to be taken in account, that the industry is constantly changing its trends and swarming with competition, which means that these numbers do not mean anything in a long term. The Mintel report on Winter Digital Trends (December 2015, UK) suggests that in order to survive in such an environment the UK social media platforms and messaging apps should probably pay attention to the successful example of the platform called WeChat that dominates the Chinese market. It allows “...people to pay for products, restaurant bills, taxis, parking and cinema tickets as well as even ordering a takeaway or creating a customised pair of Nike trainers via one single app.” (Mintel, 2015) By adapting the similar strategy in the UK and “...diversify from their core offer, it is far more likely to see repeat visiting and will therefore retain users for longer.” (Mintel, 2015)
However, this opinion could be argued. At the moment, as it can be clearly seen from the same Statista chart above, that the retail category has the least share of the time that consumers spend on their mobile. This means that this part of online mobile experience is still undeveloped in the UK and companies, which want to conquer this niche need to create an absolutely seamless experience in each category of the mobile usage before combining them in one app and diversifying it services.
In conclusion, it needs to be said that the fact that the usage of mobile finally overtook desktop in 2015 is an important milestone in the industry. Those companies that have not yet embraced the mobile communication strategies are risking to lose to their more tech-savvy competition once and for all. All the characteristics of the mobile approach, such as ubiquity, immediate response, location sensitivity, personalization, and the interactivity that is controlled by the customer itself, once properly understood and thoroughly adopted to the company's communications approach, could lead its performance to the new level. Furthermore, the creation of smooth and seamless customer experience with mobile should be a priority to every company in today's customer-centric world.
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