You Can't Buy Loyalty With Mobile Users

Five Ways Brands Can Earn Customer Loyalty on Mobile

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Buying mobile users via traditional online advertising techniques had its time and place. But with the age of authenticity and engagement upon us, brands looking at the long-term goal of building customer affinity must shift focus to building loyalty, which, like most successful relationships, cannot be bought.

The need for a redefined loyalty strategy will only become more imperative as mobile devices leave desktops in the dust when it comes to share of internet usage.

Mobile consumers have been trained to accept a certain amount of "disruption" in exchange for value. Just think of so-called "freemium" features such as game-play or fitness-tracking. Generally, this type of messaging is welcomed because it relates directly to the user's experience. Mobile audiences tend to appreciate, and even look forward to, these kinds of executions.

All of this will require brand marketers to ditch "spray-and-pray" ad models for targeted engagements that actually help users. Below are five disruptive mobile-marketing tactics that will help them stay ahead of the curve.

1. Own the moment. Imagine you are playing "Wheel of Fortune" on your phone. Your final guess is wrong and the game is about to end, when suddenly a message pops up: "It's not over yet! Your friends at Target want to give you another shot." This do-over is fully branded and sponsored by a brand relevant either to the correct answer, the game's demographic, or both. In any event, the brand is present in a time of need with something native, relevant and valuable -- becoming an organic part of the moment. And when it's gone, people miss it.

2. Offer inspiration. Consider Runkeeper, an app that helps runners set goals, plan running routes, create music playlists, and more.

Now imagine fitness brands sponsoring runs and pushing inspirational messaging based on what the user is doing, such as "Push yourself to go one minute faster," or "Just one mile to go." Perhaps the brand could offer breathing and endurance tips. When runners hit their goal, the brand congratulates them with a virtual high-five, a digital badge, or even a gift. It's the sort of emotional brand affinity that a pop-up ad would never be able to capture, much less own. Again, when those tips end, users will take notice and wonder where their helpful tips went. It all comes down to the question: "Am I adding real value in the right moments?"

3. Reward users. Ninety-six percent of all mobile users will search for coupons this year to find the best deal and the greatest value when shopping online, according to a recent survey. Why make them search? Considering how easy it is to target specific audiences in real time, it's a wonder more brands don't offer valuable coupons in-app or as a relevant part of a mobile web experience.

4. Earn loyalty; don't buy it. Many apps have a marketplace that tens of millions of people visit to find rewards from brands. Hitting that many captivated eyeballs through traditional media would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only cost is the reward itself, and it becomes even more valuable because the users are able to select the rewards. That's brand affinity delivered on a silver platter.

5. Be part of the experience. In the early days of TV, laundry-soap companies (Tide, Ivory Snow) sponsored afternoon television dramas like "Days Of Our Lives" and "General Hospital" for stay-at-home moms who were often folding laundry while watching their shows, giving birth to the term, "soap opera." Apps such as Under Armour's Map My Ride offer that type of old-school sponsored experience in a cool, new way.

Should every brand build or own an app? No. But sponsored experiences can activate a brand's core audience with the right messaging and value proposition.

Mobile marketing cuts significant costs from bloated and ineffective ad buys. And it allows for hyper-targeting of ideal audiences with customer-centric offers and experiences that solve problems and make the user's life better.

This is how brands turn customers into fans. If you succeed in making a user miss you when the campaign is over, you've nailed it. Brands that miss this may fall short and end up wasting money, resources, and opportunities.

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