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November 07, 2013

The State of Mobile Customer Engagement

Since the birth of the Internet, businesses and organizations have jumped at the opportunity to advertise their presence to an ever-growing digital audience. The Web thus became a hotbed for marketing and advertisements. The reason is unsurprising: The opportunity to get a message out to millions of potential customers as they surf the Web is one that can hardly be passed up. Now, with the introduction of the smartphone and other smart mobile devices, the need to reach customers via the mobile channel has grown to where it’s virtually equal to that of PCs.

The capabilities of today’s communication devices, however, make the mobile channel a far more useful tool for businesses than just an outlet for advertisements. A recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of OpenMarket, a provider of enterprise mobile engagement solutions, found that 73 percent of business leaders consider the mobile channel a business priority and that 63 percent of enterprises consider customer engagement the top priority of such a communications strategy. (For the full infographic, click HERE.)

Image via Shutterstock

Steve French, VP of marketing at OpenMarket, told MobilityTechzone that he was surprised at how high customer engagement actually appeared on the priority list.

“Usually, in the media, you read a lot about marketing and advertising and think that’s the only way the mobile channel is being used for, but when we asked these mobile decision makers across some very large enterprises, they came back and said overwhelmingly that it’s actually customer engagement, followed by customer service, topping this list. Only after a pretty big drop-off do you start to see things like customer acquisition or revenue,” he said.

The report, titled “The Rise of Holistic Enterprise Mobile Engagement,” also found that many businesses have smartly expanded their conception of mobile engagement to one beyond that of mobile apps. The fact is that the number of consumers willing to download a third-party commercial application and have it running at any given moment is far too small to be an effective avenue for outreach, and can oftentimes be counter-productive (fraud alerts, for example, can’t rely on customers having their mobile apps installed and running). What all consumer mobile devices do have, however, is text messaging.  

It seem that companies have realized this fact, as 70 percent of enterprises surveyed currently use SMS notifications to connect with their customers, with an additional 16 percent planning to use SMS in the next 12 months.

French was encouraged by the result, stressing that it is nevertheless still important that companies employ a comprehensive multi-channel approach when it comes to mobile engagement. That means incorporating mobile apps, SMS, MMS, email, and IVR alike into the overall engagement strategy.

“You have to decide on what’s the right channel for that piece of information that you’re trying to relay while taking into account the preferences of your specific subscribers,” he explained.

Despite this level of awareness and the importance placed on mobile engagement, the report suggests that organizations are still struggling to master the challenge of mobile. 43 percent of respondents expressed critical or significant concerns that their IT organization can’t move fast enough to support mobile B2C efforts. Moreover, 63 percent of enterprises said they are spending less than $5 million each year on mobile – not a whole lot considering the role mobile engagement is expected to play.

Unfortunately, there is only so much talent to go around, and with every company looking to hire top developers to craft their own customized engagement solutions internally, resources are scarce. And, with limited financial investment, the results can be rather lacking.

“If your strategy is to hire a bunch of mobile experts to build out your mobile strategy, well then you’re fighting against everybody else who’s trying to do the same thing,” French said. “Instead, companies are better off focusing on their core business and finding a partner or partners with domain expertise and proven mobile experience to handle the technical aspects.”

Partnering with software vendors and SaaS providers can allow a business to focus on its core competencies and business strategies, while things like cross organizational consistency, system integration, vendor management, channel management, and platform deployment are taken care of by dedicated experts. This, French says, can make the goal of effective mobile engagement all the more attainable.

In a statement, OpenMarket General Manager Jay Emmet mirrored this sentiment, saying, "Mobile represents a critical communication channel for enterprises to engage with their customers. Companies are already beginning to tackle siloed mobile projects, but there is a need for a more comprehensive, cross-channel approach that lowers operational costs and increases loyalty by engaging customers throughout their entire lifecycle. Leveraging OpenMarket’s Mobile Engagement Platform and our vast mobile expertise, enterprises can realize immediate value to their business, whether the goal is to improve customer satisfaction, provide support or generate new revenue.”

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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