Mobile marketing and m-commerce
An overview of mobile commerce and mobile marketing and how it can help your business
Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is a type of e-commerce conducted through mobile devices. This includes mobile phones, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and netbooks.
Mobile marketing can be used to extend your online reach so that customers can interact with your brand whilst on the move. M-commerce brings new opportunities for selling online.
This guide introduces the main m-commerce and mobile marketing technologies likely to be used by small businesses and the business opportunities they offer. It also advises on creating mobile content and choosing a digital agency, as well as covering m-commerce payment systems and security, and the mobile regulatory environment.
What are mobile marketing and m-commerce?
Which technologies allow mobile commerce such as mobile websites, apps, mobile advertising and SMS
Mobile marketing is a practice that allows your business to engage with your customers -or target market using a mobile device or network. Often mobile marketing refers simply to marketing on or with a mobile device - eg a smartphone or tablet.
Types of mobile marketing
The four main mobile marketing tools used are:
- mobile-friendly web sites
- mobile applications or 'apps'
- mobile advertising
- SMS or MMS messages
With mobile friendly marketing, you can use many of the features of normal internet marketing to connect with potential customers such as:
- recorded video
- streaming video
You can also use Bluetooth - wireless technology with a short range - to communicate with potential customers as they pass billboards or kiosks. Bluetooth is free to use as there is no airtime charge. It must be used correctly otherwise it can be considered spam, which is illegal. Using Bluetooth for marketing is also known as beacon or proximity marketing. WiFi can also be used for proximity marketing in a similar way.
What is m-commerce?
Mobile commerce (m-commerce) allows your customers to use mobile devices to complete online transactions. You can use m-commerce as part of your marketing strategy and to interact with potential customers.
To successfully use m-commerce, your business will need offer a quick and easy online shopping experience for consumers. This could take the form of personalised shopping with products and discounts based on individual customer preference and previous online activity.
M-commerce and mobile marketing benefits
The use of mobile marketing and m-commerce is becoming increasingly common due to reliance on mobile devices, like smartphones. People use these devises to browse the internet and shop whilst 'out and about'.
There are a number of benefits to selling and marketing on the mobile web. These include:
- reaching the widest possible audience with your digital marketing due to an increasing number of consumers using mobile devices to access digital content
- instant, adaptable, easily monitored communication - you can send single or bulk messages from anywhere, at any time with immediate tracking and the ability to record results
- the ability to target a large active consumer group by specific demographic information - eg age, location, gender
- cost efficiency, with low production and distribution costs, and additional revenue from replies to promotions and competitions
- a direct link to consumers through 24-hour billing/sales/service/assistance
- viral marketing potential, as consumers can forward messages
- cross-media integration, which is easily tied in to other advertising media - eg TV or radio
Advantages and disadvantages of SMS marketing
Understand the benefits that marketing by text message brings and the pitfalls and costs associated with it
Text messages or short messaging service (SMS) messages are the messages that people send from their mobile phones.
Text messaging enables information to be sent to groups of people quickly and conveniently in much the same way as email, making it an increasing popular e-marketing channel.
Advantages of SMS marketing
The benefits of SMS marketing include:
- The personal nature of mobile phones make SMS marketing a very powerful tool.
- Most people take their mobile phones everywhere - meaning they can be effective for time sensitive messages.
- People tend to read virtually every text they get - unlike junk mail, spam or adverts which can be ignored.
- Can be used with information from your customer relationship management system to target customers past on their past purchase behaviour.
Potential disadvantages of SMS marketing
Some of the downsides include:
- Your message has to be short - you do not have much space to get your message across.
- People respond negatively to unwanted texts. Make sure you have their permission to send them texts and that your SMS marketing complies with privacy and data protection rules. See privacy and data protection in direct marketing.
- People are wary of responding to SMS messages due to an increase in fraudulent messages. Under the E-commerce Regulations, you are required to make it clear who the message is from and commercial communications must be clearly recognisable as such. For more information, see selling online and the law.
You will need to employ a mobile phone agency to send out the texts for you. Companies tend to price their services by packages - so check their delivery rates and make sure the support services are satisfactory. You can also brand your messages so you send messages from your company name, not just your number. The development of 4G (fourth generation) and smartphones, which have larger screens and can play music and video clips, has also made multimedia messaging service (known as MMS) possible.
How you can use mobile marketing and m-commerce
How you can choose the right strategy and platform for your mobile commerce
When deciding on whether to use mobile marketing or m-commerce solutions in your business, you should consider the following points:
- How mobile marketing fits into your marketing plan. Will you use it to market your product or service, acquire or retain customers, or solely as a sales tool?
- Your target audience and how they communicate - how your customer base - or potential customer base - use mobile devices and whether a mobile application is necessary for them.
- Whether a mobile application or service would improve your current product or service - eg you could switch from paper discount vouchers to SMS-based vouchers.
- If your competitors use mobile devices or applications, how do they use them? Are they successful, and how could you improve them?
You also need to consider the most effective mix of mobile content that will benefit your business.
There are a host of opportunities for you to develop content for m-commerce and mobile marketing. Some of the options you could consider are:
- mobile applications - this includes social networking apps, rich media content, games or viral content
- mobile websites - websites that are designed for ease of use on a mobile device
- location-based services - eg mobile services that use the users' location to personalise the content that is served
- mobile advertising
There are a number of ways you can make money through m-commerce and mobile marketing.
One simple way is to allow your product or service to be purchased through a mobile-friendly website. Often a responsive website template is used to change the look and feel of your website, to make it more accessible to mobile users. See mobile web design best practice.
Creating mobile content for your business
How to successfully reach potential customers through mobile commerce, considering the needs of mobile users
Any mobile marketing or mobile commerce (m-commerce) project that you consider should initially be designed with your target audience in mind.
Understand mobile customers' needs
There are a number of different types of mobile device that people use, and these may vary depending on your customers. Typical mobiles devices used are:
- basic mobile phones
- netbooks and laptops
- tablet computers
The mobile version of your site should be well designed, and the code clean and compliant with World Wide Web Consortium standards. This will allow cross-browser compatibility - ie it can be accessed across all major media, popular browsers, mobile devices, or any other web-browsing devices.
You also need to think about how your customers connect to the mobile internet. Due to the vastly differing speeds of internet connections, you may, for example, have to simplify your mobile product to ensure that the loading times do not put customers off. Common mobile technology connections currently used include:
- 4G and 3G, which allows videos, location-based services, downloads and improved internet use - now comparable to many standard broadband connections
- WiFi, which allows internet usage up to home network speeds - however, there must be a WiFi spot within a certain distance to gain access. You should be aware that there are potential security issues with using unencrypted public hotspots.
Considerations when creating mobile content
The basic considerations when creating any type of mobile content are that:
- content should be easy to read and digest on mobile devices - read more about optimising content for mobile devices
- customers and end users must always be considered - consider user-centred design
- whether you should develop in-house or externally
Mobile app versus mobile website
Depending on the type of mobile marketing or m-commerce service you intend to develop, you will probably consider using a mobile 'app' or a mobile website. There are pros and cons of both systems which you should be aware of.
You should only consider developing an app if there is something specific that you need a customer to do that cannot be easily done through a normal mobile friendly website. They can be costly to develop and potential customer often do not want to download an app in order to make a simple product purchase
If you opt for a mobile app, you should consider:
- cost of developing an app vs developing a mobile friendly website
- how to bring your app to market - eg through Apple's App Store, via Google Play or via another source
- how to upgrade or maintain your app once created
- whether to charge for the app or make it free
- what type of app is best for your campaign - eg game, social networking app, e-commerce app, etc
- how to promote your app
Read more about optimising content for mobile devices.
Optimising content for mobile devices
How to make sure your mobile website is accessible and easy to use
Many business' websites that can be accessed on a computer will be inefficient on a mobile device, either due to the smaller screen size or its appearance. If you decide to create a mobile site, you need to ensure that your content is optimised for mobile browsers.
One possible way to do this is to develop a responsive website template. This will take the original content of your site, and serve it to the mobile user in an easy to read and navigate format. You can also give the user the option of switching to the original version of the website, with may have more features, but will require more 'pinching and zooming' of content.
How to optimise content for mobile devices
As many customers using mobile browsing services will be 'on the move', it needs to be as easy to use as possible. You should consider the following factors when optimising your content:
- offer appropriate information first, then further reading
- use concise and direct language
- front load content, ie place distinctive information at the beginning of each section
- get users' consent before initiating downloads of content
Read more about mobile web design best practice.
As mobile devices have a different screen layout and operating speeds to standard desktop computers, you should:
- design responsive pages
- simplify the design of the site to take screen sizes into account
- add alt-tags for pictures - users regularly block downloading images to reduce bandwidth consumption
- avoid scripting languages, Flash or other complex objects that mobile devices may struggle to operate correctly
- avoid fixed sized items - eg tables - as they may not fit certain mobile devices
You must also design your site with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind. SEO strategies must be put in place including link building, keyword research and optimised webpages and sitemaps.
How to create an advertising campaign for mobile formats and methods for measuring success
Mobile advertising is becoming increasingly popular among businesses as it can reach a large audience in a concise, economic format and achieve a higher conversion rate than display advertising. Read more about m-commerce and mobile marketing benefits.
Mobile advertising formats
There are a number of different ways you can advertise on mobile devices, including:
- search engine pay-per-click ads have mobile friendly features such as 'click to call' a telephone number in the ad
- on mobile friendly video websites such as YouTube
- on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter
- in-app advertising
- SMS and MMS
Some online advertising platforms allow you to specifically target mobile users.
Using mobile advertising
Before starting any advertising campaign, you need to consider:
- your target audience
- what you want to achieve from the campaign
- how it sits within your overall marketing mix
You also need to create a brief for your advertising campaign, and consider the following points:
- what you are trying to communicate
- your time and budget restraints
- whether you will create and manage the campaign in-house or outsource
- whether your advert is to be a one-off or a series
- what you will be measuring, eg key performance indicators
Measuring mobile advertising success
You can only measure your advertising success and learn lessons for future campaigns if you set clear, quantifiable objectives at the start of your campaign. Many good web statistics packages allow you to segment and analyse mobile content.
Measures of a successful campaign include:
- click through rates - the percentage of users who click on an advert to go to the advertiser's site
- pages visited and dwell time - the pages in your site visitors look at and how long they spent on each page
- whether anything was purchased or ordered after visiting the site through an advert
- how many times your app has been downloaded - if using a mobile app
Read more about measuring your online marketing.