Mobile Marketing Insights

The Post-Pandemic State of Mobile

Learn about why mobile's role in the marketing ecosystem is more imperative than ever before, and ways for brands to establish an effective mobile engagement strategy

Table of Contents

This post originally appeared as a 3-part series in Total Retail: How Mobile Data Overcomes Today's Retail Challenges; Mobile's Role in BOPIS and BOPAC; 4 Ways Retailers Can Establish an Effective Mobile Engagement Strategy

There’s no denying that 2020 fundamentally changed how consumers interact with brands. Smart marketers realized the need to understand changes in consumer behavior and leveraged consumer behavior data to develop effective retail strategies. Digital engagement initiatives — in particular, mobile engagement (text, mobile wallet, and mobile app push notifications and inbox) — have continued to drive success for brands across the board. The intimacy and authenticity created by mobile engagement, and the data it produces, is a valuable resource to overcome the challenges presented by rapidly changing customer behavior.

Now in 2021, as retailers start to see budgets loosen, they're faced with high expectations. Mobile for marketing, servicing, and loyalty can serve as a key strategy for driving high return on investment and consumer engagement for brands. As the most intimate channel, effective mobile engagement relies on highly personalized messages that are timely and relevant and can only be generated by data insights. Data from mobile engagement allows brands to craft a personal shopping journey for each consumer in an automated way. From initial welcome messages to personalized offers and post-shopping engagement, brands can connect with consumers on their most personal and trusted device.

Awareness and Reach

According to research, 99 percent of text messages are read within 90 seconds of being received. This demonstrates the massive reach of mobile engagement, and how receptive consumers are to this type of communication. So when a retailer is launching a new product or looking to notify shoppers about an upcoming sale, it’s only natural to gravitate to a platform that can inform a large and receptive audience. In addition, mobile engagement is personal in nature. Your phone is an extension of you; it’s how you build relationships and is a personal connection to the digital world. All of this, it goes without saying, makes mobile data extremely valuable for retailers, at a massive scale.

Related story: Mapping a Richer Customer Experience Through Multimedia Messaging

Mobile-Specific Data

With the steady increase of messaging, the explosion of contactless experiences, and the acceleration of e-commerce, both the quantity and quality of data retailers have at their fingertips increased throughout 2020. Mobile-specific data unveils a variety of insights that allow retailers to build holistic shopping profiles and experiences. This data goes beyond the typical name, phone, email, country, carrier, and device type. It shows how and when consumers are using their most trusted device to engage with your brand. Knowing that a customer prefers to engage early in their day can help create new strategies to target customer segments like daily planners vs. impulse buyers, for example.

Bi-directional data integrations with the rest of retailers’ tech stacks can link data to larger shopping behaviors that allow them to provide more personalized, bespoke experiences for each individual shopper.

Engagement in Real Time

As more consumers utilize mobile and contactless experiences, the data can reveal unique buying behaviors that were previously unknowable. For example, using my earlier example, brands can determine precisely the right time of day to engage with a customer to maximize attention and effectiveness. This data can create entirely new segments of customers, who before now looked unrelated. The speed of mobile allows marketers to test content like never before. For example, one Vibes customer uses A/B testing in increments of 15 minutes to learn time-based buying behavior of its customer base.

Mobile Provides Adaptability and Nimbleness

2020 was a strange year. And potentially unlike any year we will ever see again. However, it provided a peek into the future. One where retailers are required to be more nimble than ever before and adapt their content to a world where daily events can change the meaning of content. Consumers have become hyperaware of physical interaction during both the shopping journey and the buying journey. And this behavior will last.

One Vibes customer saw that change and took action. It used mobile to make its entire shopping and buying journey 100 percent contactless across tens of thousands of physical locations. The only time the customer touches anything other than their phone is to take the physical merchandise after they’ve completed their transaction.

Mobile's Role in Click-and-Collect BOPIS and Curbside Pickup Experiences

During the pandemic, retailers faced several once-in-a-lifetime headwinds, including closed physical locations, limited in-store capacity, slowed shipping times, and a customer that was oftentimes scared to leave the house. As a result, they turned heavily to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pick up at curbside (BOPAC) to make their customers’ buying journeys easier. These options combine the benefits of convenience and instant gratification, while making the shopping process safer.

Prior to the pandemic, BOPIS and BOPAC were growing. However, the pandemic forced brick and mortar retailers to significantly increase investment in digital to physical shopping. And this customer behavior is here to stay. During the holiday season, BOPIS usage increased 400 percent from 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Major retailers are seeing success from adopting this omnichannel strategy. For example, by introducing BOPIS, 40 percent of Bed, Bath & Beyond‘s revenue now comes from its digital channels. Now that BOPIS and BOPAC’s are here to stay, mobile engagement must be integrated into the process.

Mobile Reduces BOPIS / BOPAC Consumer Friction

While BOPIS and BOPAC improve the customer experience by making the consumer shopping experience easier, retailer to consumer communication is tricky during this process especially because it is so time dependent. The biggest complaint with BOPIS is that customers arrive before their order is ready. This means effective communication between the retailer and the consumer is critical to a positive customer experience.

Most retailers still use email to communicate with customers during BOPIS and BOPAC experiences. The problem with email is that 80 percent of people don’t open emails from brands. The channel just isn’t an effective way to inform customers of time-sensitive information.

With mobile engagement, and text in particular where 99 percent of all messages are read immediately, retailers can effectively alert consumers at the exact right time. Minimizing the likelihood that a customer arrives too early. The effectiveness of texting and mobile engagement is why BOPIS and BOPAC messaging is predicted to grow 45 percent in 2021.

Bridging Digital and Physical with Mobile

BOPIS and BOPAC are unique omnichannel experiences, blending the safety and comfort of digital shopping with the convenience and instant gratification of physical storefronts. In order to craft a seamless experience, a hybrid solution is essential — one that bridges the customer journey from online checkout to the pickup counter or parking lot. Since the mobile device stays with the customer throughout the buying journey and because it is so effective at grabbing that customer’s attention, mobile engagement is the perfect answer to a fantastic customer experience.

Foster Engagement at Every Step

Mobile engagement provides consumers updates and information from purchase to pickup on their most trusted device. Texting confirms orders and provides notifications around merchandise availability. For example, if a shopper orders five items of clothing, text alerts can inform the consumer when all items are ready for pickup, eliminating any confusion or guesswork on the consumer’s part.

In addition, geolocation technology embedded in the app or in the mobile wallet allows a retailer to alert a customer when they enter a set radius from a physical store, reminding them of an order ready for pickup and re-sharing the order information. Mobile engagement significantly eliminates the friction involved with a customer struggling to find their confirmation number or a barcode to scan.

Mobile wallet goes beyond consumer convenience and provides retailers with secure authentication so they can be sure they are fulfilling the correct order to the correct customer. This will eliminate fulfillment errors and fraud.

Fulfillment Options Are Best Driven by Mobile

Mobile messaging will continue to improve the BOPIS and BOPAC experience for customers. It allows retailers to cost-effectively compete with the rapid delivery offerings of competitors like Amazon and direct-to-consumer brands, while delivering on the streamlined shopping and service expectations of consumers. BOPIS and BOPAC are just one aspect of a retailer’s mobile engagement strategy.

4 Ways Retailers Can Establish an Effective Mobile Engagement Strategy

During the pandemic, brands turned to digital initiatives to reach customers, not only for marketing, but also for other stages of the consumer lifecycle. Here at Vibes, our own data showed a 200 percent increase in automated mobile transactional messages from January 2020 to December 2020. The messages ranged from providing consumers with information about store closures to how to shop online, all content associated with providing a safer customer experience.

Additionally, brands saw a 20 percent increase in mobile engagement clickthrough rates (CTR) in 2020 compared to 2019. These higher CTRs indicate consumers prefer mobile messaging as a main form of communication with brands. What’s more, mobile engagement benefits brands by providing a massive database of consumers that have opted into communications that brands can then mine for optimal segmentation and personalized outreach based on attributes and behaviors.

It’s no secret that consumer behavior continues to change as we enter a post-pandemic world, and brands must take advantage of this data in order to remain successful. Let’s explore four key strategies for retailers to effectively tap a consumer’s most personal and trusted device through mobile engagement.

1. Frequent, Quality Acquisition

Building a quality database of customers who want to hear from you is a great way to get started in mobile engagement. Acquiring SMS subscribers is just the beginning, though. We see a lot of retailers come to Vibes with very high opt-out rates. These retailers are panicking because they know getting a subscriber who has opted out of a database to opt back in is extremely difficult.

In order to avoid this, retailers must focus on building steady and inviting opt-in channels via email, in-store at the point of sale, across social media, and on their websites. These CTAs need to attract quality customers and must explain the value of opting in. Once a customer has raised their hand, welcome streams informing them of the mobile program’s benefits, as well as providing a welcome offer can increase the likelihood of a subscriber’s stickiness.

2. Segmentation

Consumers are looking for more convenient ways to shop — whenever and wherever that may be depends on the customer. That's why segmentation matters in mobile engagement. What works for one segment of customers may actually turn off another. We work with our customers to identify new segments based on mobile behavior and sometimes segments emerge that are different than segments that have been previously established. A restaurant chain may find that some customers respond much better to time-sensitive offers for lunch while others want to plan ahead more and want longer redemption time windows.

Mobile conversations between retailers and customers create new data sets and new insights that need to be connected back into the rest of the tech stack. This will allow future segmenting and targeting not only on mobile, but within other digital channels like email or even offline channels like direct mail.

By using mobile engagement, marketers can build consumer profiles to better support the entire shopper lifecycle and experience both online and offline. With segmented consumer profiles, retailers can provide more automated and personalized services to satisfy consumer demand for convenient, relevant communication.

3. Data Integration

Retailers’ marketing, servicing and loyalty don't need to be — nor should it be — siloed. Each channel, from email to mobile to social, must be able to share data to create seamless consumer experiences. In 2020, mobile engagement proved it easily fits into existing journeys to benefit the holistic consumer experience. Fortunately, avoiding data silos is much easier today with widespread integrations between systems within a retailer’s tech stack.

4. Continued Investment

Almost every single customer of ours saw an increase in digital investment due to the pandemic. These investments were long overdue, but they are beginning to pay off as brands are now able to operate with improved data integrations and multichannel orchestration. With consumers demanding highly relevant, timely, and convenient experiences, retailers not utilizing all mobile engagement channels, including SMS, MMS, mobile wallet passes, mobile app push notifications, and inboxes, miss out on valuable opportunities for consumer engagement.

One investment we’ve seen accelerate is the upgrading of point-of-sale technology. These upgrades help consumers contactlessly check out and provide a safer experience in a physical store. The investment in contactless checkout has created a new opportunity for retailers in mobile wallet leveraging Apple Wallet and Google Pay.

The connection of SMS and mobile wallet has become a critical link between the digital and physical shopping journey. SMS and mobile wallet engage consumers in the gaps between email, which has high reach, and a branded app, which has high loyalty by providing app-like functionality to customers who may not download and regularly use a brand’s app. The continued investment in POS technology will continue to drive usage of adjacent technologies like mobile wallet. Particularly, as more and more consumers reach for their phones rather than their physical wallets at the checkout counter for not only their credit cards, but also their loyalty cards stored in their phones’ mobile wallets.

Mobile Engagement Can Fill Marketing Gaps

Last year highlighted and accelerated new trends in mobile engagement that will stay for the long term. From convenient contactless experiences like buy online, pick up in-store and curbside pickup, to new ways to segment, and expanded data integrations, mobile data will enable retailers to overcome old and new challenges. 2021 is a pivotal year for retailers, as the gap between effective and ineffective marketing widens, mobile engagement will fill the gap. Investing in mobile engagement through new channels, data integrations, sophisticated segmentation, and quality acquisition leverages the strengths of mobile and launches retailers to the forefront of consumers' minds.

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