By Jack Philbin
(Jack Philbin is cofounder/CEO of Vibes, a Chicago-based mobile marketing technology company, and chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) North America. He is also a keynote speaker at the CONNECT 2014 Mobile Innovation Summit, August 18-20 in Chicago.)
It's no accident or surprise that more than 2 million cumulative apps are in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store. The rising tide of smartphones surely adds to this massive wave of apps, all aiming to make using smartphones easier, more efficient and more fun.
For many brands and retailers, apps have become their entryway into mobile. By building apps that offer information, incentives and associated in-store touch-points, companies such as Starbucks and Walgreens have seen incredible success. Given the success of apps today and the consumer demand for them, what retailer wouldn't want to amplify its investment?
The great thing is, with so many new technologies available, brands have more choices than ever to extend the reach of their mobile app strategies.
A comprehensive mobile strategy: Planning beyond the app
While creating an app has been a great gateway into mobile, and still is a valuable tool to deliver content, reach is limited by the number of people who download and use the app. And, unlike those consumers who use a retailer's app, those who download third-party coupon apps for deals — such as RetailMeNot and Coupon Sherpa — often are seeking discounts and offers and, therefore, are not likely to become loyal to a particular brand.
A mobile strategy must extend beyond the retailer-specific and third-party apps to include nonpayment mobile wallet apps such as Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook. A mobile marketing strategy should be symbiotic, with each piece complementing all others — for example, a tool that drives more app downloads and usage and an app that does the same.
Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook are the two dominant nonpayment mobile wallet apps. No other third-party app can compete with their reach, cost efficiency and distribution potential. Because Passbook comes pre-installed on iPhones running iOS 6 and higher, the consumer does not need to download anything. The mobile wallet app sits on the phone next to stocks, clock, photos and messages, which gives marketers a guarantee that if they invest in a mobile wallet initiative their iPhone customers will have the ability to participate. Since Google Wallet is such an influential force across both iOS and Android operating systems, it is another critical tool that gives marketers opportunities to continue reaching more consumers.
In addition to reach, these mobile wallet apps complement existing strategies by adding additional advantages such as location and advanced design. Powerful location-aware technology enables marketers to reach consumers at the right time and place — with the right content — to drive foot traffic. The design capabilities of mobile wallet apps allow for personalized content such as a customer's name, coupons/offers based on past purchases and relevant calls-to-action.
Few mobile marketing tools complement each other as nicely and seamlessly as mobile wallet apps and a brand's own app. Consider these examples:
- A consumer receives a pass through Apple's Passbook, which has an option on the back to download or open the retailer's app — driving downloads and usage of the app.
- A consumer can see an option to add a pass to Passbook inside a retailer's app with a specific offer — driving usage of the mobile wallet.
As these examples demonstrate, a brand's app and mobile wallet apps create a cross-pollination effect that's unrivaled when it comes to driving consumer engagement.
The differences between Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook
Not only do these mobile wallet apps present their own benefits for marketers, but consumers are demanding them. Research shows that 85 percent of smartphone owners see benefits of storing mobile wallet content on their phones; however, only 19 percent have noticed retailers offering this kind of content. There is a clear gap to fill, but where and how should marketers start?
The first step is having a basic understanding of the two major mobile wallet apps — Google Wallet and Apple's Passbook:
- Access: Google Wallet is not native to an operating system, but it is available through the Google Play store; it's also available for iOS in the App Store. Passbook is part of iOS 6 and iOS 7, so the majority of iPhone users already have it; it's not available to Android users.
- Configuration: One of the key differences is the apps' approach to mobile wallet content distribution. Google Wallet content lives in the cloud, so consumers with a Google account and the app on their phones can save offers and loyalty cards to Google Wallet. Passbook passes are signed and compressed files that sit on phones. There are various ways to get passes into Passbook, including SMS, email, apps and mobile banner ads and, in iOS 7, users can share passes with other iPhone users.
- Implementation: Mobile wallets have interactive content that can be altered, making it possible to deliver engaging content and then take it a step further – analyze key insights post-campaign to retarget customers and increase program effectiveness. For Google Wallet, content can be changed with some restrictions; and since changes are made silently, consumers aren't alerted to updates. Passbook content can be changed with little restriction, including color, images, personalization and expiration dates. Once updates are made, notifications can alert consumers.
The key to success: Maximizing reach
Defining what it takes to increase customer engagement — including strategically segmenting — plays a major role in fine-tuning any mobile marketing strategy. There always will be subsegments of customers who prefer to receive coupons via third-party apps, via the retailer or brand's own app, via mobile wallets such as Google Wallet and Passbook and even some who still prefer offline coupons. Leveraging big data and customer relationship management practices, as well as the post-campaign analytics available with tools such as mobile wallets, marketers can identify how to best reach their most important customer segments based on their preferences.
In most cases, an "either-or" strategy won't work. The winners will be those who intelligently deploy multiple tools — and the unique benefits of each — in their mobile marketing strategies to maximize the reach of brand initiatives.
(This essay also appears in "2014 Mobile Retail Apps and the Engaged Consumer" just published by Retail Customer Experience.)