Mobile Marketing Automation – New Digital Customer Engagement Models

The state of the art in digital marketing is the integration of social, local, and mobile  or mobile marketing automation.

MMA is a hot emerging area which leading Chief Marketing Officers are focusing on for mobile apps, precision targeting, and test & learn campaigns. Why? Because customers are extensively using the mobile channel. Mobile devices are ubiquitous and people who are accessing their phones throughout the day account for more than half of all internet traffic.

The business problems CMOs are focusing on include:

  • How to effectively engage the customer with relevant messages at the right place, and at the right time (Messaging + Notifications)
  • How to convert lookers into buyer – Digital Retailing isn’t just about targeting devices or linking devices, it is about conversion and coordinating activities across all customer touch points, including mobile and offline.

What makes MMA different is the focus on the propensity to purchase coupled with location intelligence. Segmenting and reaching audiences based on demographics, psychographics, content, or cookies can be effective, but these methods don’t make the association that matters most – propensity to purchase and actual purchase behavior.

The category did not even exist just a few years ago. The tremendous migration of customers using mobile as their primary interaction channel is fueling the need for new, sophisticated B2C marketing tools. CMOs focusing on digital customer engagement are aggressively piloting new initiatives in this area.

Why? Because Digital shifts power to the Customer. Mobile isn’t just the future – it’s the present. With over two billion Smartphone users, mobile channel usage is growing exponentially. Consider these statistics…the number of Facebook mobile-daily active users recently crossed 800M; the number of mobile-only monthly actives is 600+M users; % of users who only login from mobile devices exceeded 30%.

Mobile-first, mobile-only are new behavior patterns in consumer engagement across all demographics.


Customers – Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers – all expect brand interactions to be relevant to their immediate context. Established brands are scrambling to appear relevant in this mobile-first world, and brand-specific mobile apps are popping up with never-before-seen speed. Marketing requires meeting customers where they are with precise targeting of offers & messages – and mobile is the key channel for this type of communication.

Mobile marketing automation is now picking up techniques from mobile advertising. The insight that is driving mobile marketing automation: People (especially millenials) are more than willing to share data if it’s going to be used respectfully— meaning if it’s used for what it’s collected for, and they’re part of the value proposition. The technology fueling mobile programmatic marketing has grown exponentially in sophistication, with big data analytics enabling micro-targeting. Reaching, steering, and influencing effectively on mobile devices along the path-to-purchase is the new frontier.


Adapted from Shopper Marketing – 2014 Guide Digital Shopper Marketing

So, What is Mobile Marketing Automation (MMA)?

  • More internet access via mobile apps than desktop PCs (as of 2014) – ComScore

Shopper marketing is rapidly evolving with the demands of millennials. At the same time, big data, targeting and segmentation are more precise than at any other point in history. The challenge, of course, is bringing it all together as an integrated solution. Mobile marketing automation is the technology that allows mobile-focused companies to automate, personalize, and measure mobile shopper activities in order to increase relevant user engagement while simultaneously enhancing the real-time user experience.

MMA has evolved considerably in the past decade.

  1. Spray and Pray Approach – email-based marketing
  2. Push Notification Services + SMS and In-App Message Delivery Services – Random and intrusive push messages and alerts that tend to alienate users.
  3. Simple personalization – Simplistic “personalized” customer experiences that are based on shallow data, such as purchase history, gender, marital status, geographic location, etc.
  4. Dynamic Personalization – Focusing on optimal message + optimal channel + optimal timing + optimal device. This is largely driven by predictive analytics (e.g., Next Best Offer), machine learning, interest graphs, location-aware context-sensitivity, and personalization at scale.

Mobile marketing automation allows companies to meet concrete business goals (activation, reactivation, fulfillment of offers, etc.) through audience identification and segmentation, intelligent targeted messaging, while also enabling brands to reach consumers across all platforms, channels, and levels of engagement. The technology is characterized by an understanding of each individual mobile user and the ability to engage in an automated, personalized, and optimized way.

An entire new breed of startups are converging around data driven Mobile Marketing Automation. They include: Kahuna, Urban Airship, MobileROI, Intercom, and Juice Mobile. The major vendors who are focused on large enterprises, ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), Marketo, IBM and HubSpot, are also racing to add MMA features.


Adapted from Parse (firm acquired by Facebook)

Enabling Shopper Marketing: Core Features in MMA Platforms

How do you drive shopper engagement throughout the path to purchase? Below are five core concepts behind every MMA platform:

  • Integration & Understanding: components that ensure the system is able to understand your mobile users across devices and platforms. Understanding customers means leveraging transaction history, behavior, content views, profiles, and preferences (a 360-degree customer view).
  • Analyze & Discover: fully understand multi-touch attribution, which assigns values to different touch points of the customer journey to inform intelligent campaigns.
  • Leverage Insights & Engage: components that allow the system to intelligently engage users wherever they are—mobile apps, mobile web, social networks, and wearables. Communication channels include push notifications, in-app messages, web messages, email, and more. Customization of engagement requires sophisticated real-time analytics leveraging location, timing, user preferences, and prior transaction history.
  • Act & Automate: components that enable the platform to send personalized and automated messages based on a set of campaign business rules, real-time user behavior, and location parameters. Ensure customers are receiving the right offer, via the right channel, at the right time.
  • Optimize, Test & Learn: components that allow the system to track and optimize campaign results (via A/B test design, messaging and timing of campaigns) to achieve specific KPIs.

With the new data-driven MobileFirst Marketing Automation platforms helps companies deliver highly individualized mobile experiences, messages, advertisements, and offers using interest graphs, live signals, and current customer context.

These platforms leverage predictive analytics, context-sensitivity, and personalization at scale and taps into the growing number of smartphone sensors and other external data signals to give brands a periscope into the lives of their consumers, these insights ensure every brand interaction is delivered when it’s highly personal and relevant to the individual customer’s immediate situation.

The more sophisticated firms seamlessly create the closed loop – analytics and engagement and machine learning. They leverage real-time signals like the customer’s identity, location, current activity, physical situation (weather, traffic, etc.), purchase history, movement patterns, implicit and explicit intent signals, and social graphs.

Several firms are incorporating predictive analytics into the mobile marketing platforms. By analyzing multiple real-time data streams against historical data, algorithmic models are able to anticipate future trends, user preferences, and actions, helping brands to learn what customers are going to do before they do it, such as abandon their shopping cart, churn, or share their experiences. The objective is to intervene with the right message or offer at the appropriate time to motivate or change their behavior.


In-App vs. Out of App Notifications (Source: SWRVE —

Programmatic Shopper Marketing is the New “New” Thing

For years, marketers have focused on creating strong and recognizable brands by promoting products and services through various channels and creating campaigns to support and advertise their offerings. But customers in today’s mobile first economy want something different. They expect a positive, seamless, and personalized engagement no matter how – or when – they choose to engage.

To deliver, marketers must harness their massive datasets, and use the wealth of insights available from digital and traditional channels, to engage customers and prospects in highly personalized and intelligent one-to-one messaging, regardless of channel.

I am anticipating that data-driven mobile marketing automation is creating the foundation for programmatic marketing. “Programmatic” ad buying typically refers to the use of algorithms to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations, and manual insertion orders. Through programmatic technologies, advertisers can automate the buying of ads for most effectiveness, which has dramatically changed online advertising.

The same underlying concept is coming to mobile shopper marketing. By triggering campaigns to automatically launch based on consumer’s real-time intent, immediate context, or actions, brands can intervene with the right offer, message, or functionality at the precise moment a customer needs it.
I believe Programmatic shopper marketing and targeting enabled by mobile marketing platforms, predictive analytics, and machine learning is next big thing.

Customer Engagement with Brands and Channels

Source: LiquidHub

MMA Real-world Case Study: Mobile Marketing Automation with Beacons

ShopperTrak is a provider of consumer behavior insights and location-based analytics. Shopkick is a shopping app and has beacons in various retail stores. Their partnership aims to deliver superior in-store experiences and rewards for mobile shoppers, while also providing the retail community with an analytics tool to optimize the shopper’s experience in the store.

How? By integrating ShopperTrak interior analytics solution with Shopkick’s in-store beacon technology, the companies will provide retail customers with actionable and anonymized in-store analytics, allowing them to understand in-store shopper behavior, including where customers are going and how long they are staying. This analytical insight enables retailers to shift in-store strategies and operations to match shopper interest and behavior, leading to increased customer loyalty.

Shopkick’s shopBeacons, which are already deployed at more than 8,000 large stores, including Macy’s and American Eagle, welcome shoppers entering a store via mobile alerts and share location-specific deals, discounts, recommendations, and rewards (called kicks) –- as you enter the store’s front door. The Shopkick app can also tie at-home browsing to in-store benefits— if a shopper “likes” a specific product in the app, as she enters the store, shopBeacon reminds her of the product and it’s location in the store. ShopBeacons have a five-year battery lifecycle, and have fully encrypted signals.

Additionally, retailers can utilize the shopBeacon network to engage with customers through their own apps, gain rich insight into customer behavior, and deliver more interesting customer shopping experiences.

The end goal is to create new ways to increase shopper traffic, conversion rates, and average transaction size.

Additional References and Notes

  1. Digital Architecture 101
  2. Digital Integration – Why do you need a new breed of innovation vendor/partner
  3. Digital 101 – The Basics
  4. Multi-Channel Engagement Platforms
  5. A/B Testing
  6. In-App vs. Out of App Notifications (Source: SWRVE)
  7. The Notification Economy… American consumers are overwhelmed by an avalanche of over 3000 marketing messages daily.
  8. Precision Marketing
  9. Segmentation
  10. Why Millennials are the Convenience Generation

Leave a Reply