What 80s TV can teach us about mobile advertising
Despite vast advances in technology since the era of The A-Team, the ‘old world’ of TV can still help us better understand modern consumers
For lots of companies, engaging with customers through mobile devices seems like a brave new world – something that requires totally new approaches marketing and engagement with a society that now lives on these intelligent devices.
From my 35 years of working with the Nielsen company, I believe there are lessons for mobile customer engagement that can be learned from the world of 1980s television. At that time, cable networks became popular in the US, offering viewers hundreds of channels. This plethora of choice fractured the TV market, as more programming meant that people had more choice about what they watched.
With 500-plus channels, viewers became selective and it turned out they consistently watched only 12 to 14 channels on average. To make the most of their advertising dollars, marketers needed a lot of information to decide who was watching what in order to put their products and services in front of the right audience. Nielsen’s ability to gather data about viewers – channels watched regularly, age, location, income, and so forth – was crucial to making these decisions.
We are now way past the 500 TV channels of old with the boom of video on demand, streaming, personal computers, tablets and mobile devices. But, as has been the case with TV, mobile consumers are equally selective about the apps they use, the sites they visit and the companies they do business with. This is what makes the new world of mobile devices similar to the transitions that occurred in the old world of TV. Just as marketers needed to use data and analytics to figure out who to best target in a landscape of hundreds of channels, now they need to use these tools to target messages to a particular mobile consumer. It’s more complicated given the fact that targeting needs to be increasingly granular and across more screens, but many of the measurement techniques used to identify the right television audience are still valid today.
Of course mobile devices are much more than just push technology that dumps information on users. With roots in phone and web 2.0 technology, these devices give users an unlimited opportunity to talk back. Users have adopted mobile engagement – and especially digital engagement – in droves, making mobile the go-the platform to interact with friends, family and businesses.
Mobile interactivity means that companies must now use data and analytics to deliver the best possible experience, not just to determine the audience for their marketing messages. Consumers expect the mobile experience to be akin to their experience in a shop on the high street. Too often in the online world, companies set up web stores but then fail to staff them, requiring consumers to fend for themselves. It’s not surprising that sales conversion rates in this environment sit between a measly 1% and 3% on average.
Effective digital customer engagement requires that we leverage understanding of customer behaviour to offer not just contextually relevant information, but contextually relevant assistance that helps the customer through the online buying experience. Several top online retailers now use live chat to deliver this assistance. These retailers have found that the majority of questions are not limited to simple requests concerning shipping and returns. Consumers ask the same questions they would ask in stores such as “What do you think would go well with this top?” or “Is this going to be compatible with my existing tech?” which means that chat agents are engaging in meaty conversations that last several minutes.
Anticipating these new customer needs can help businesses to engage shoppers with digital channels to boost sales and build customer loyalty across devices. Making investments in technology that allows in-depth digital conversations can be very worthwhile. Forrester reports that 38% of consumers said they had made a purchase due to a chat session, and retailers experience a 20% increase in shopping cart size with chat.
The digitisation of conversations provides a permanent transcript of each interaction. Companies can aggregate this data to develop consumer personas and then engage with customers accordingly. It is important to establish well thought-out policies to protect consumer privacy, but with the right controls in place, companies can offer a more satisfying customer experience as well as peer into the future, detecting where existing products can be improved and new opportunities lie.
The growth of mobile has radically changed life for all of us, but companies do not have to regard the advent of the mobile consumer as some brand new animal that cannot be easily understood or approached. By keeping in mind that we can pool our existing techniques for understanding consumer behaviour with new digital engagement technologies, we can deliver truly compelling experiences to each mobile customer.