It is easy to think of FMCG brands and creative multimedia campaigns when the subject of mobile marketing comes up, but in fact, the largest and most successful mobile marketers are the wireless carriers, which enjoy unparalleled access to and a unique relationship with their customers.
More than anyone else, carriers use the mobile channel to market and sell their own products and services to their customer base — handsets, talk-time and SMS bundles, mobile data plans and mobile content to name but a few. They benefit hugely from the implicit opt-in that their customers provide (in most cases) when they sign a service-plan contract or initiate a prepaid line because they can contact their entire customer base. In fact, wireless carriers account for more than 70 percent of all mobile‑marketing activities in the world.
As a category of mobile marketers, carriers fly under the radar with a global reach estimated at 15‑20 billion ads/pitches per month that outpaces even an industry goliath like Google, which claims 10‑12 billion searches each month across web and mobile.
But evaluating the success of distributing this massive volume of mobile-marketing communications goes far beyond measuring response rates and conversion to sales, although both are key indicators of return on investment (ROI). Measurement of such programs requires a highly sophisticated, scientific approach. When performed correctly, measurement reports for carrier-based programs can be very large.
The mobile phone is possibly the most potent, direct-marketing-response device ever created, but it is also the most personal. In this sense, any over-exposure to marketing messages can easily be perceived by consumers as an intrusion. This sense of violation of privacy can lead to switch off via opt-out or even churn.
Therefore, it is critical to carefully track certain metrics that can provide clues as to the requisite adjustments to a mobile-marketing strategy. Some key metrics to consider are listed below:
Omnibus consumer surveys: They offer the fastest, most quantifiable method for performing market research on a brand. Sophisticated carriers perform them all the time to gauge brand perception. As carriers discover “problem areas” in their service offerings, those issues can be turned into opportunistic mobile-marketing programs.
In addition, especially pertaining to mobile-marketing initiatives, surveys can quickly uncover whether or not customers are satisfied with the number of contacts from a carrier. If customers receive too many mobile advertisements or promotions, it will erode the carrier’s brand.
In general, carriers with more mobile-marketing experience have found that — on average — any amount greater than four ads/pitches per month can have a negative impact on brand and customer loyalty.
Complaint calls: Customers call to complain about a great many things, including a carrier’s own mobile-marketing programs. Carriers must ensure that they can track complaint calls specifically for their mobile marketing in their customer relationship management (CRM) system. Then, after taking a baseline, if complaint calls on mobile marketing begin to trend up, carriers will know that they need to adjust their approach.
Opt-outs: No mobile marketer wants opt-outs, but they are especially painful for carriers when they come from their customers. In this case, an opt-out becomes less about loss of revenue‑generating opportunities and more about a long-term effect on ensuring optimal customer satisfaction. A carrier may rollout a new product or service that could address a specific customer’s need, but — if that person has opted-out of receiving messages via mobile — there is little to no way of communicating that benefit.
Of course, if opt-out numbers begin to trend high, a carrier must address its customer interactions immediately to prevent the next metric.
Churn: This metric is the ultimate sign of customer dissatisfaction. According to primary research conducted by YouGov, 88 percent of 2,198 surveyed respondents said that they did not think it was acceptable for wireless carriers to feature third-party advertising. Furthermore, as many as 72 percent said they would be more likely to consider leaving their carrier if it started featuring third-party ads, with 21 percent saying they would do so immediately.
Excessive mobile marketing by carriers can lead to higher churn numbers, as one Southern European carrier found out when it turned its mobile‑marketing function into an ad network to generate revenue from third-party advertisers. That carrier lost substantial market share to other less‑intrusive ones.
Churn can be viral. Studies have found that one customer with a negative perception typically causes an average of four other subscribers to switch service providers, deepening the financial loss for carriers. There can be various reasons for churn, but mobile marketing should not be one of them. If carriers correlate a higher level of churn with the timing of increased mobile-marketing activities, they need to quickly assess whether there is any relationship between those activities by checking their complaint-call logs and performing customer surveys.
Patterns of spending: Carriers track the types of spending that their customers make for services. That spending can be monitored to inform decisions on rolling-out innovative product offerings. It also can be used to detect anomalies or downward trending on certain types of customer purchases. If income from monthly billing statements goes down or customers call to complain with “sticker shock” from their bill, those feedback mechanisms are triggers to modify a mobile-marketing approach.
Mobile programs should increase ARPU and customer-satisfaction levels, and communicating new service offerings or ways to save money, especially when they are contextual in the form of an SMS alert, provide value to a customer. For example, if a customer makes an out-of-country call but does not have an international plan, a timely (i.e. contextual) alert after the call would notify the person that he or she could save money by purchasing an international calling plan.
With literally tens of millions of dollars at stake each month, carriers spend a great deal of time and resources to ensure the success of their mobile-marketing programs. Evaluating and reporting the ROI of those programs can be a very sophisticated practice. In addition to traditional measuring of response and conversion rates, along with the corresponding financial performance, carriers must institute processes and feedback mechanisms in their BOSS and CRM infrastructure to monitor these five metrics to avoid any brand erosion and promote the most positive customer experience.