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Personalization is key to mobile commerce success

May 1, 2012

Personalization is not a new concept in marketing, but it is definitely going to be a key factor in the success of mobile commerce. However, marketers need to realize that getting consumers to buy a product or service is not as important as providing a tailored experience that gives them exactly what they want and need.

Nowadays, consumers crave contextually relevant and targeted information. Additionally, consumers always have their mobile device with them, and instead of thinking about how to make their next sale, brands and retailers need to focus on personalizing their efforts to better reach their audience.

“The ideal situation for a marketer to be in is knowing exactly who the user is and giving them exactly what they want,” said Melody Adhami, president and chief operating officer of Plastic Mobile, Toronto, Canada.

“The inherent intimacy and individuality of mobile gets marketers a number of steps closer to being able to understand their audience,” she said.

Personally relevant
According to Ms. Adhami, if done right, personalization can be invaluable to the end result.

Although many marketers are quickly delving into mobile, they are not really thinking about creating relevant and personalized experiences.

Although it is smart to see who their target audience is, brands and retailers are focusing too much on getting their mobile campaign out there, rather than pay attention to see if it would attract their ideal demographic.

“The reality in mobile has been that not many brands are really delving into and experimenting with mobile and personalization,” Ms. Adhami said.

“We are seeing a lot of the same look and more companies opting to take quicker simpler routes like item catalogues or store-location finders,” she said.

Although many companies are not taking the personalization route just yet, Starwood Hotels has proved that it leads the pack.

The company’s SPG: Starwood Hotels and Resorts app changes what it is offering or promoting based on whether the user is currently staying at a Starwood location or not.

“That kind of personalization is incredible from a users’ perspective because it identifies the immediate need of the user, and then caters to that need,” Ms. Adhami said.

“For example, finding restaurants nearby a specific location that the user is currently staying at versus sending the user deal information on different locations as food for thought for their next trip,” she said.

Understanding the consumers
Personalization is very important to commerce success.

The more customized you can present information on a small screen, the more relevant that data is likely to be.

“Consumers on the move are less ready, willing and able to enter lots of data,” said Simon Buckingham, CEO of Appitalism, New York.

“The more that can be implied from the consumer’s location and other phone information, the more likely consumers are to engage further,” he said. “Marketers need to balance the benefits of personalization against the importance of privacy.

“Consumers may be put off by seeing personalized information if they don’t feel that they have opted into share their specific information on that device.”

Mobile is personal and marketers need to take that into account when developing their strategies.

According to Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston, there is a fine line between usefulness and intrusion.

Marketers should use mobile to deliver relevant offers that are based on personal preferences, location, and other very personal real-time data, as well as link responses to actual transactions.

If done right, this will help brands and retailers stand out from the crowd.

“Marketing is often siloed off from the ecommerce team, where the revenue is generated,” Mr. Kerr said.

“They are spending many hundreds of thousands on social media engagement, for example, yet fail to realize that this is, in fact, mobile marketing,” he said.

“Literally, marketing should walk down the hall to the ecommerce team and find ways to join forces.”

Keys to success
Marketers should know who their target demographic is and what they are looking for.

For example, Sephora can create a more personalized experience by seeing what consumers are browsing for via the company’s mobile site and apps and next time the company’s customers use the mobile site or app, the homepage can display the items they are looking for or offer them something similar.

Additionally, if a consumer is buying a dress via the Bloomingdale’s mobile site, the company can offer that customer shoes that go with the dress, which will not only help drive more sales, but have consumers coming back for a tailored shopping experience.

“If retailers can deliver special offers that allow consumers to view the mobile site as a resource for savings, everyone wins,” Mr. Kerr said. “They gain metrics and learnings and the ecommerce team gets incremental sales tied to specific vendor-approved campaigns to push product.

“At the very least, retailers need to be sure their mcommerce site is integrated with their current ecommerce platforms so powerful elements like in-store pickup linked to realtime localized inventory can be leveraged,” he said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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