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The average consumer's time spent staring at mobile devices continues to grow, now accounting for more than 23% of all time spent with any form of media so why, asks Russell Loarridge, managing director for Janrain, are so many companies still in the experimentation phase of how to use consumers' mobile devices to drive business? This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

What many marketers have found is that mobile devices extend and expand the customer journey in complicated ways that we are just now starting to understand. Does a mobile app install for a summer campaign drive ongoing preference? Do mobile banner ads drive higher conversion when they drive to an email offer or an app install?

Companies have been limited in their ability to see across devices - to understand how the customer journey between mobile and desktop builds toward a specific outcome. This is an especially important problem when 90% of consumers with multiple devices switch between those devices to complete tasks and transactions. That's why many marketers are now focusing on the unified customer profile, where they can map customer activities to analyse performance across channels and across ad networks.

So how can the mobile platform best be used to engage the customer? Loarridge makes the following recommendations:

  1. Use Mobile Ads to Drive App Installs, and Nothing Else!
    Mobile devices present such a challenge to advertising because they bring the power of your company directly into the hands of your customer. Historically, companies have struggled to stay in front of a customer, and to stay top of mind. TV and print advertising are built on the idea of interrupting your customer from something they care about (the TV show or article), sticking your message in their face, and hoping something sticks in the back of their brain that might influence a decision down the road.

    However, the more intimate the device, the more unwanted interruptions offend the user. That's why interruption doesn't work on mobile. Mobile is a task-driven experience. Your customers use their phone when they want to get something specific done, like checking a flight status, or snapping a picture; the small screen size supports a focused, purposeful experience.

    That's why most mobile ads are a waste of money. The majority of mobile ad spend is on banner ads, and banners are basically distracting the user with content that is unrelated to their intended task. And, the proof is in the pudding: banners get the worst click through rate of any mobile ad format, a paltry 0.27%.

    However, ad formats that promote app installs do extremely well-in fact, they do 30-50 times better than banner ads. App install ads work because they are not interruptions, but instead are woven into the fabric of many experiences.

    Facebook app install ads are a good example: they embed directly in the timeline. iOS and Android both feature the ability for your site to be tagged to an app, to drive an app install when the user visits your site from a browser. Most mobile ad networks now support interstitials that promote app installs. In all of these scenarios, the app install ad is a part of the primary experience-not separate from it. Which is why mobile ads should be used to drive app installs - and nothing else.

  2. Require App Registration Immediately After Install
    With a solid strategy to drive app installs, companies are on the way to a deep relationship with the customer. But, in order to close the loop on understanding who your customer is, you need them to register. And the best time to have them do that is the first time they launch the app.

    Of course, driving registrations requires a compelling reason for the user to log in. The value of the registration event is significant; it creates a connection point to understand how a customer moves through the buying cycle. So, you have to offer an experience that is valuable enough to make the customer want to opt in to sharing their data with you.

    The registration process is the way to turn those anonymous installers into known customers. The registration process must connect to other customer data management systems in order to develop a complete understanding of each individual customer through a centralised and actionable profile. And, once they are logged into your app, your customers never need to log in again. Since the mobile device is so inherently personal, it's common to only require a login once, then persist the session unless the user actively logs out.

    Required registrations have become a familiar experience for most users, as they are required to set up a new account, or log in to an existing account, for nearly all of the most popular apps, including: Facebook, Netflix, WhatsApp, Instagram, SnapChat, and Pandora to name just a few.

  3. Open Up A Personal Communication Channel
    Once your customer has registered, you have gained access to their most trusted communications tool. More than email, more than retargeting, and certainly more than offline advertising, mobile push notifications are the most engaged form of messaging. In fact, open rates are more than twice as high as email.

    And the best part is that you don't have to pay any media company to access your customer. When you have a promotion that you want them to receive, you just give it to them. Directly. And let them respond. Instantly.

    As they say, "With great power comes great responsibility". Your customers can easily tire of push notifications if you abuse them, so it's important to continue to push relevant, value-adding messages. But, the occasional, well-timed notification can drive huge response rates. If you can link 80% of your pushes to personalised updates (for example, "someone has tagged you in a new photo"), the customer will accept your periodic marketing messages and find value in their relationship with the brand.

"For several years we have seen time spent on mobile devices dramatically outpace mobile ad spending. And now the reason why is clear: once you have your customer's permission to talk to them whenever you want, there is no reason to advertise to them on the same device," concluded Loarridge.