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IBM exec claims untargeted mobile messages are the new spam

June 20, 2014

14251_optNEW YORK – An IBM executive at the Mobile Research Summit: Data & Insights 2014 said 30 percent of all retail traffic online originated from mobile last holiday season and with expectations for a 7-10 percent increase this year, marketers must avoid broad messages that cause consumer distaste towards brands.

The definition of spam is changing from “unsolicited commercial email,” an idea based on permission, to a perception-based definition where consumers consider marketing messages from known senders to be junk if the content is uninteresting or exclusive of themselves. For example, when consumers are on the subway and receive a message from Walgreen’s that says ‘Come into our store!’ but cannot come in because they are on the train, this leaves a bad impression.

“Messaging gets more complicated and more dangerous as we start to mix unique characteristics in mobile such as push notifications,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM, Boston.

“In mobile the danger is we alienate our customers and make them dislike our brands,” he said.

“Understanding your customers is not just collecting information and data points, its understanding in context those data points and then engaging with consumers to then optimize your strategy.”

Mobile Commerce Daily organized the Mobile Research Summit: Data & Insights 2014.

Improving multichannel engagement
While consumers are jaded by superficial attempts at personalization, they do appreciate customized offers. However a disparity between what consumers want and what marketers are able to deliver exists because of wrongful classification that mobile is just another channel, per Mr. Henderson.

While mobile is digitally connected, contains addressable browsers, email clients, and search and display ads—all features that are universal across many digital channels, mobile must be conversely coddled because it is uniquely comprised of not one, but many different channels, an ignorance many marketers fail to acknowledge.

Continuous customer engagement is key throughout mobile channels, and as mobile becomes more ubiquitous, it is of equal importance that as users engage in cross channels, marketers be more proactive where their customers are.

“From my perspective engaging the customer isn’t just marketing responsibility. Lots of different departments within an organization such as sales provide customer service,” Mr. Henderson said.


“When you think about how you’re going to personalize engagement and interactions it isn’t just abut the function of marketing but about the discipline of marking as it is being practiced.”

Anticipating high expectations
Last year, IBM reported that 15 percent of all online purchases were made via mobile, and are expected to increase as much as 20 percent in 2014. Moreover, 47 percent of all emails were opened on mobile, surpassing desktop.

As Henderson cited that simple and rich push notifications can drive 1-4 times higher engagement than traditional use cases, he also noted a lack by marketers  on analyzing mobile customer data,  and is a major obstacle to implementing more effective strategies, like customization.

To move from turning customers off with communications based on lazy assumptions and engaging them with content that is customized according to what their online behaviors say, a three pronged approach to closing the loop includes listening to consumers, creating meaningful interactions, and finally supporting insight with best practices.

There is a wealth of data that marketers can access, but not every data point needs to be dissected. Marketers should start by considering data that allows creation of enticing and relevant messaging that anticipates future consumer behavior and elicits the desired response. For example, who is opening your emails and what actions are they taking after?

Consumer habits should also be monitored across all channels to understand the path to purchase to gain an understanding where meaningful and relevant interactions have opportunity.

Data-driven insight is only as valuable as a marketers ability to use it effectively. Creating customized content is one thing. Making sure it reaches the  intended audience when, where, and how it’s supposed to is another.

By combining a deep understanding of the customer journey with digital marketing best practices, marketers will be able to deliver customized experiences their buyers care about.

“We have the opportunity to deliver marking that is so relevant that customers perceive it as a service and we want the service to be so good that it is perceived as great marketing,” Mr. Henderson said.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to deliver relevant messages and to do that at the right time at the point when it helps inform a buying decision.”

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Michelle Saettler is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach her at

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