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What should the mobile database record?

November 11, 2010

kocsisjformalBy Jeannette Kocsis

Many marketers today were brought up in the world of database marketing. They built databases that house customer data that can be used to gain insight into purchase behavior, and drive campaigns through management tools based on opt-ins, preferences and purchase history data.

Ever since mobile messaging came onto the scene, questions began to form in the minds of those marketers.

Most companies today have successfully integrated email opt-in into their databases and drive campaigns from them through campaign management tools.

But with mobile came a complex, new world of changing marketing rules and campaigns that do not rely on campaign management tools.

Is now the right time?
Mobile is moving into mainstream, based on companies that are increasingly integrating mobile into their databases.

It is no longer a question of piloting a tactic, it is a commitment to a new medium.

As marketers consider the future of their databases, they have to think about mobile customers, just as much as they do social customers. Data is coming in at alarming rates, and they will need to consider how they integrate it and how much of it they need.

More than just recording an opt-in, marketers need to potentially integrate preferences set by keywords being used or requests from a mobile Web opt-in form.

Consumers may forgive a marketer for an occasional off-topic email, but when a message comes through text, it must be relevant. Some consumers pay for those messages and will not have tolerance for any messages that are not relevant.

Here are some pointers on what the mobile database should record:

Mobile number: Most marketers have been collecting mobile phone numbers for years. Their intent was probably for communication purposes.

Now those numbers will probably come in handy, although it is important to understand that consumers own multiple mobile devices.

Having a mobile phone number already in the database will allow marketers to match mobile opt-ins through text call-to-actions (text JOIN to 12345) to customer records.

Opt-in: Like email campaigns, marketers can record their customer opt-in in the database, and may have to do so for multiple types of campaigns.

Mobile guidelines from the wireless carriers require that a consumer may opt-out of all programs on a common short code, or just a single campaign. It is a simpler process than email, where the consumer may have to proactively opt-out of each one.

For example, when consumers text “Stop All” to the short code, they are opted out of all campaigns.

Texting “Stop Alerts” might opt consumers out of Alert programs, leaving them enrolled in others. Each marketer will need to decide if it wants to create records for mobile phone numbers without corresponding customer information.

Campaign data: Mobile text campaigns can be used to gain customer information, by asking the customer to text back vital information. All of this data may need to be stored at the database level.

Additionally, customers may opt-in to campaigns through mobile that may influence communications in other channels.

For example, if a consumer opts-in to a text campaign from a retailer on jewelry, the marketer may want to follow-up that message through opt-in email or through direct mail.

Purchase: Mobile coupon redemption should be included at the customer database level to determine its success.
Easier said than done, redemption tracking will rely on point of sale systems, or data being returned through mobile commerce.

Mobile phones: The marketer can find out the mobile phone and operating system used by the consumer.

This could be added to the database to market particular types of applications to the consumer, or can be viewed in the aggregate to help make decisions on applications and mobile Web site features.

Not all companies have robust enough databases to handle mobile tracking. They may have to rely on campaign management that is provided at the mobile datamart level – the data collection that occurs at the mobile provider level, recording campaign specific opt-in/opt-out and very similar to how they may push email campaigns.

One positive aspect of using the datamart is that it is always up to date. One negative might be the lack of ability to pull campaigns based on behavior.

A key drawback of using the customer database to pull lists of opted-in customers is that opt-out of mobile is immediate.

Marketers will need the most up-to-date opt-in list possible before the messages are pushed out. Be sure to dedupe the customer database list against the mobile datamart before hitting “send.”

MARKETERS NEED to stay on top of the rules and regulations surrounding mobile messaging to ensure that all opt-in and opt-out requirements are met.

At the same time, integrating mobile messaging campaign data into the database can only mean smarter and more relevant marketing.

Jeannette Kocsis is senior vice president of digital marketing for The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks Inc., Yardley, PA. Reach her at

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