The population of the digital world has long been absorbed with the idea of connection. The need to connect is at the epicentre of all our activities regardless of whether that connection is made via social networks, mobile, email or another channel. For brands, the quest to connect with their consumers is nothing new – it’s simply a part of what they have always done. Only now, we’re starting to see some interesting changes in the approach as focus is turned beyond connection and towards engagement.
The difference between the two concepts is huge. To connect is to walk into a room full of people and acknowledge them with a nod. If you’re lucky, they’ll nod back. To engage is to walk into that same room and have meaningful conversations with the whole group, any sub-group within it, or any individual. To engage is to add value to the experience of these people through your own presence and all that you have to offer. This may take the form of sharing ideas, entertainment, observations and opinions, advice, stories, offering assistance, or making plans together for further engagement in a different digital or physical space, whether immediately or at a later date. In short, successful engagement is a party that benefits both brands and consumers alike.
It used to be that brands were fond of positioning themselves as destinations. Examples abound from Disneyland’s ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ to eBay’s ‘The World’s online marketplace’ and even stretching back to the times when we were encouraged to ‘Come to Marlboro Country’, the overriding message was clear – it was up to consumers to move towards those brands to enter the party. So what’s changed and why? The quick answer is everything and mobile.
There’s been a polar shift of sorts; a re-writing of the rules of engagement. Brands are now battling to win over consumer hearts, minds and spend on consumer turf – and that means mobile turf. There is a saying circulating around the mobile industry lately – it serves as a warning, a prediction, and a hard-boiled fact to brands everywhere: ’If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you don’t have a strategy.’ No need to pause for dramatic effect; in the world of mobile there’s simply no time for one! It took Apple 24 years to sell 67 million Macs and only 2 years to sell the same number of iPads. That’s how fast things are moving and brands need to move just as quickly to catch up to their consumers.
What separates mobile from every other consumer engagement channel is the yawning gap between the time spent by consumers on mobile (and that includes tablets) and the current spend being put towards mobile. The logical conclusion is that mobile budget spend will increase to bridge this gap to meet consumers where they spend their time. Regardless of the form that mobile consumer engagement takes – be it mobile advertising, CRM, m-commerce, gamification, social networking or something else – this is where the opportunity lives – in this gap. The race to fill it has already started.
The business case for brands getting their mobile engagement strategies right speaks volumes. In European markets we already have evidence of bold mobile investment paying off – for example, in the UK, 1 car is sold on eBay Mobile every 3 minutes. As the statistics below show, the market in Asia Pacific is not only ready, but its consumers are willing:
PayPal reported the mobile commerce market in Hong Kong had grown to HK$6.4B in 2012 and showed a dramatic 444% jump on last year’s figures of $1.5B in mobile commerce sales, with over half of all online shoppers using mobile, compared to 1 in 5 a year ago.
Telecoms analyst Informa predicts in 2015 Asia Pacific will be the largest revenue generating market for mobile advertising globally accounting for 30.9% of the global mobile ad market (thanks to growth in India and China)
Research consultancy TNS has found that as many as half of mobile users in the fast growing markets of Indonesia (59 percent), Malaysia (52 percent) and China (48 percent) are interested in starting to use their phone as a mobile wallet to pay for goods via an app or sensor.
As we enter the next phase of mobile engagement’s rapid evolution we can expect to see increasingly sophisticated and seamless examples of mobile engagement. SoLoMo (the converged opportunities of social location and mobile) is already being extended to SoLoCo (the Co being m-commerce and the mobile element being implied). Next year we’re expecting more campaigns being built to capture the dual-screening opportunity, the ubiquity of rich media engagement, Augmented Reality to establish its commercial footing in the mobile space, stronger fusion between branding and gaming, and an increasingly granular approach to data and context in targeting consumers. I’d say it’s an exciting time for the mobile industry but closer to the truth is that it’s an exciting time for every industry taking its consumer relationships to the next level by getting engaged on mobile. For all those that have, congratulations and welcome to the party!