Written by Masters Student at Lund University
student hugs a girl, girl: “what is this?” boy: “direct marketing”. The girl
slaps the boy, boy: “what the hell was that?” girl “customer feedback”. For companies this seems to be a similar scenario
when it comes to mobile social media marketing. Companies play the role of a
scared uncertain boyfriend versus, his girlfriend (in this case the consumers) not
sure whether she will like his offer or use it as an excuse to dump him! As
uncertain is the phenomenon of reaching out to consumers via their mobiles,
this paper is focused on making it a little bit easier to have faith in this
rapidly spreading mode of mobile marketing. According to Shintaro and Charles
mobile marketing provides higher degree of interactivity with consumers
compared to traditional marketing, (Okazaki & Taylor, 2008). Moreover in
contrast to one to one marketing which is product centric, mobile marketing is
more customer centric where needs, wants, and resources of the consumers is the
starting point of product design planning,(J,Valos.,T,Ewing&H,Powell.2010).
This is beneficial for companies seeking to get valid customer feedback and
innovate accordingly in order to avoid big risks and losses. The purpose of
this paper is to evaluate how mobile marketing benefits both consumers and
companies hand in hand.
A life without a mobile is no life.
Jeanne mentions some interesting statistics in her blog, stating that it takes 26 hours for an average person to report a lost wallet and only 68 minutes to report a lost mobile phone, (Hopkins, 2011). This will not come as a surprise but more as a reality check of how dependant and conscious we are of our mobile sets. In fact come to think of it how many of us actually depend on other forms of social media anymore? TV and computers are pretty much less in use, mainly because they are not portable and easily accessible at all times. Study by Jovo and Frank, shows that over 20 per cent of consumers in UK, Germany, US , Japan and over 33 per cent in Italy and France have switched from Television to internet, since it keeps them more focused, (Ateljevic & Martin, n.d.). Apart from increased focus, and a break from skipping channels during commercial breaks what else could possibly have attracted consumers to internet? The answer is as simple as the solution internet has provided to consumers.
Apps the new knight in shining armour!
According to Andreas consumers nowadays, thanks to approximately 250,000 mobile apps, are able to search information, read books on Kindle, make restaurant reservations and stay in touch with friends by just a simple click, (M.Kaplan, 2012). Applications such as Foursquare and Dodgeball, help people connect at any time and place. Dodgeball does not even require GPS to track user’s location. People simply check-in and send a sms to the application which notifies their friends on Dodgeball, (Humphreys, 2008). It’s more in use for local socialising, and gives more control to privacy concerned consumers who in this way have more control in sharing information about their whereabouts.
At the same time while consumers are hesitant of sharing personal information, there are many advantages that they can get by doing so that might outweigh the possible threats. It’s the job of the companies to make consumers believe that the associated benefits are worth the try. Here Andreas makes a distinction between push communication which is initiated by companies and pull communication that consumers opt for, and how mobile social media gives back some power to companies, (M.Kaplan, 2012). According to John and Leora the ability of consumers to customise or filter out marketer’s messages, puts a price on their attention, (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009). This will enhance healthy competition for companies leading to more creative and innovative ways of reaching out to masses, other than making consumers feel specially catered to. A few examples of companies specially customising mobile marketing messages and websites according to customers’ preferences include, one by Banerjee, about a travelling website called Nextweekend.com, where users are asked each week what they want to do on the weekend and are accordingly provided with weekend leisure packages. It’s a platform where people get to share ideas, information and get rewarded for their contribution, (Neelotpaul, 2010). Andreas says that companies engaged with consumers through their mobile devices always have more information on their consumer’s geographical information, and this can be used to reach out to specific segmented audience e.g. by launching a sales promotion at a specific site which lasts for 1 to 2 hours and the text message is send to all followers present with in the premises, (M.Kaplan, 2012). David Meerman in his book ‘New rules of marketing and PR’ mentions that marketers need to capture people at the right moment, and take advantage of the warm feeling right there and then, e.g. at the payment counter the greeting ‘Hey share your contact information with us and get 20% or so off on the next shopping trip’ can really motivate consumers to consider sharing such personal information, (D.M.Scott, 2011). Another way of directing people to your website or the information you want to share with them is the trend of QR Codes. This idea is quite effective. One recent use of these codes has been by a group of students who started a blog for an online marketing course, and in order to get more traffic, they pasted these QR codes everywhere across campus. Anyone with a smart phone would be inclined to know what the codes stand for, all they need is an app, which scans and decodes the code for them. While the target audience satisfy the seed of curiosity within themselves, the blog gets its message across. The idea of how effectively companies can use this tactic crossed my mind while shopping for milk at Lidl, and finding a similar code on a carton. Upon decoding, I was taken to the Facebook page of the grocery store, where I found myself browsing for a good half an hour through all the current deals being offered. Now that is what I call effective mobile marketing! According to Sandeep and S.Umit, this can also decrease the risk of consumers coming across an anti-brand website, hence it’s better to direct them to an online forum where they can evaluate the brand better, rather than get confused with negative comments, and get a chance to share their concerns with the right people, who can guide them in a better direction, (Krishnamurthy & Kucuk, 2009).
I’m not like you; I need some space in this relationship!
However where on one hand mobile marketing gives this power to companies, on the other hand they have to be careful when reaching out to consumers. Overdose of information or sending out text messages to the wrong target consumers can cause irritation, and let’s not forget that with just a simple click the consumers can unsubscribe from getting future updates. One such example is from my personal experience with Groupon.se, which floods my mail box at night with me waking up to an overflowing mobile. Even if it meant going out of the way to unsubscribe, I was willing to make that effort, since nowhere on earth was I planning to buy tickets every week to Turkey for two, or going all the way to Stockholm for a spa treatment!
Here some light can be shed on cross cultural differences as well. It is true that cultural backgrounds strongly influence the outlook of consumers towards various social media platforms especially mobile marketing, (E,Liu., R,Sinkovics., Pezderka & Haghirian, 2012). Chia-Ling, Rudolf, Noemi and Parissa compare Japanese and Austrian consumers in their research. Japanese come from a collectivistic culture where sharing personal information is common, whereas Austrians belong to an individualistic culture and believe in holding a unique opinion that differs from those of others. There is also the concept of power distance
in different societies. Higher it is less people feel the need or right to question authorities and are easily persuaded. Japanese are the ones that lie in this category, hence mobile marketing is perceived less irritating and openly accepted by them, (E,Liu et al, 2012). Speaking in a similar context Pakistan and it’s neighbouring under developed countries fall in somewhat the same category as Japan. Ten Pakistanis consisting of an equal mix of students and professionals were asked about their opinions on mobile marketing. Being a society with high power distance, these consumers do not have the awareness to question certain media messages thrown their way. Also the fact that not all forms of social media are that commonly or easily accessible, even a little exposure to them might be a pleasant change for these consumers. While on one hand a few complained that sometimes, getting unnecessary texts causes irritation, at the same time majority thought the information shared was convenient. Students liked how a newly emerging political party bringing a ray of hope for the country had introduced mobile mass messaging for campaigning, where anyone who joins the political party gets invited to weekly meeting notifications taking place anywhere in their city.
Some appreciated that getting the right discounts and offers via texts saves time, especially when due to the terrible traffic and road infrastructure, it’s hard to take out time from your busy schedule and run over to an overly crowded shopping centre, where just the thought of being pushed around while digging for the right thing makes you frustrated and tired. The question is what creates these differences across cultures? It’s merely providing convenience to consumers, within their resources. Hence if third world consumers enthusiastically welcome mobile social media marketing tactics, that have become redundant and over used in the developed world, there is a pretty good chance that if something out of the box is introduced to consumers that are exhausted of the old ways, mobile marketing will get a positive response.The widespread use of mobiles, ipads and similar devices that are easy to carry and use, can lead to a confident prediction that in the future, consumers will mostly be accessible through their mobile devices. According to Jennifer and Stephanie, researchers nowadays increasingly use social media to get valid information, while journalists and media persons are seen using blackberry sets and various smart phones in conferences worldwide to take notes. Not just that, they can also easily check up on brands and companies of interest to back up their results, (Hobson & Cook, 2011).
From the above discussion, it can be safely concluded that consumers are relying increasingly on their mobile devices to stay connected to the world around them. Many reasons contribute to this trend, but the most important one is the user friendly properties of mobile social media. In just one easy to carry gadget, consumers can install various applications and get access to important information around themselves. With the present fast paced lives, traditional media such as Television, radio and even the computers are becoming old school. While multitasking, consumers want to be able to do as much as possible. From shopping, to booking dinner in a favourite restaurant, to organizing a function and inviting guests, to making quick calculations, find out which hair cut suits you best, etcetera, everything should be as easy as a click or flip of a finger. At the same time consumers also want to be in control of their lives and do not want their decisions to be influenced by marketers. This is where mobile marketing balances the power between consumers and companies. This paper uses cultural differences, consumer preferences, and various empirical examples to show how mobile social media is a great platform for both companies and consumers to interact.
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