Finnish mobile thought leader, Tomi Ahonen, maintains that mobile is the seventh mass media (following print, recording, radio, cinema, TV, internet) that mankind has adopted. He goes on to argue that what makes mobile unique is that it delivers the properties of all six previous mass media combined.
As well as being the ultimate convergence device, replacing digital cameras, MP3 players and satnavs, mobile comes with its own unique benefits that will facilitate a new dawn of experiences for end users and marketers; contextual relevance.
The addition of location based services (LBS) and near field communication (NFC) services gives mobile devices the ability to deliver end users the information they need with contextual relevance, such as recognising who they are, where and when they are and what they are doing.
For marketers, this represents a huge opportunity to deliver highly tailored messages to consumers at exactly the right time, catering to their need and enabling them to act on it immediately. The effect of this almost guarantees marketers a greater response rate through the delivery of bespoke offers which ultimately generates greater loyalty and a more meaningful connection between the consumer and the brand.
At its most basic level, contextual relevance would allow a brand to send a specific call to action on the basis of a mobile search, sending restaurant offers for a particular vicinity following a search for ‘food’ on the mobile device, for example. By using contextual relevance, the device would recognise that the consumer is in a specific location at 1pm and wants to eat, using the information it has built up to recommend the nearest suitable restaurants and facilitate a booking, directions and so on.
By using contextual relevance, brands can use more effective permission-based mobile marketing based on these basic tenets of engagement and interaction. While we are starting to see examples of this in the marketplace through services like O2 Priority Moments, TopTable, Groupon and FourSquare, it is the evolution of services like this that hold the true promise.
The right information
Contextual relevance in its truest form would integrate these offer-based tools into localised knowledge, peer recommendations and personal preference settings. It would deliver information about a consumer’s location to provide exactly the right type of information, at the right time and in the right format. There are many other variables such as reputability, stock availability, opening times, quality and price. In many ways, contextual relevance is the ultimate form of precision marketing where brands can engage in real-time with consumers; something that the marketing community is increasingly getting to grips with.
Looking to the future, the next logical step to this is the addition of full m-commerce facilities. Whether through secure mobile payments made online or newer technologies such as NFC that allow payments to be made locally using the mobile device, companies will be able to tap into a genuinely different media and sales channel. This will provide a truly seamless experience for consumers, taking the use of mobile beyond search to information gathering and purchase. For retailers, advertisers and brands, the ability to start recognising purchase habits in real time is set to make mobile one of the most important channels available.
This development brings with it added privacy and security concerns which are currently being addressed by the industry as a whole. The success of contextual relevance hangs on addressing these issues from the start and getting it right first time.
Value added benefit
Consumers need to be assured that any payment they make will be done so securely. They are at the point of understanding that by opting-in to receive information and offers based upon where they are there is a value-added benefit. To move them to the next level, the industry will need to initiate an educational process to reassure consumers that their data and privacy will be used securely and sensibly. In return, consumers will then need to understand that they will receive the benefits of better marketing communications and service via mobile.
Ultimately what sets contextual relevance apart is that it holds the key to being able to communicate with every consumer as an individual because it enables the delivery of highly targeted messages. In many ways this kind of tailored service, intimate knowledge and attention to consumers’ preferences harks back to the days of the local shop where the owner would know their customers’ wants and needs, which takes us back to an adage advertisers or marketers have always known: the consumer is king.