Are Brands Ready to Engage On-the-Go Consumers?

Looking back to the beginning of 2012 when we all presented to our client(s) or marketing team(s) the year’s must-do or must-watch media or platform, I bet mobile was definitely top of our list. Two-thirds of the year has gone and how many impressive and successful mobile campaigns have we launched in China?

I personally don’t remember much except the very recent Nike campaign leveraging QR codes and cooperation with Tencent’s Weixin (a China Whatsapp) platform. If you look into the campaign mechanism, the tools, and technology involved, it is not a complicated campaign at all. So why haven’t we produced similar campaigns until now? Are we ready to produce more soon?

In my opinion there are a few areas stopping us from really producing as much interesting and engaging mobile campaigns in China.

1.  The mobile-friendly branded asset is not always friendly.

We all know Adobe Flash is having difficulty surviving on Apple mobile and tablet devices. With iPhone and iPad both getting so popular in China, lots of marketers are finally revamping their company and campaign websites in HTML5 formats and expect their branded assets to become mobile friendly. What most marketers have not considered is their consumers’ state of mind while consuming the content. Consumers browse the Internet for very obvious reasons – information and/or entertainment. When it comes to branded information, consumers voluntarily engage further only when they feel relevant and see the value of it.

Let me give you a couple of real-life scenarios: when you walk into a supermarket doing your grocery shopping, your state of mind becomes very competitive with lots of other people also shopping around and you want to be able to get what you want at the best price. You may access your mobile phone to browse on a product review site to check on testimonials and have a quick comparison on prices if buying online. You don’t have too much time to waste so you need a very efficient experience on any site you are on.

Another scenario that always happens to me is to check my flight status while on the way to airport. You can’t believe how many airline companies cannot load their flight status pages on mobile handsets on their so-called mobile-friendly websites. Experiences like these could easily frustrate consumers and lose their love and interest in your brand.

What is the solution? I call it “fast-consumed content.” Limit your content to make it concise and brief. Test your mobile-friendly content with a speed test. If testers can finish reading any page of your branded content in less than one minute, you nailed it. Also – plan as many scenarios as possible on your consumers’ state of mind. Why would they want to access your content? What is their objective at that moment? What are they looking for? What can you provide to save her time? What time do they come to your site the most often? Lunch break? Before dinner? Why? Ask yourself tons of questions and you will be able to create the best mix of your branded content, perfect for mobile access.

2.  Good user experience takes more than just a smartphone.

As of June 2012, we have 538 million Internet users in China, and 72 percent of them access through mobile devices thanks to rapid smartphone penetration growth. However, we also only had slightly more than 175 million 3G account users. It means we still have lots of mobile Internet users using 2G/2.5G data speed accessing the Internet on their mobile handsets, and I am sure lots of them are existing smartphone users already.

Our branded content needs to be available to all users, not just 3G users only, so think of them when considering your mobile-friendly asset again. How long do we have to download the page? Is your content simple like text and images only or rich like video with lots of click-interaction? How should you balance between the two? My gut feeling – go for simple text and picture-driven format, and allow video links to video sites so users have an option to click through if they feel comfortable. 

3.  We are not ready for mobile payment yet.

I have seen many brands hoping to accomplish some sort of sales transaction or business leads through their mobile site. Taobao and Alipay both have iPhone and Android apps to facilitate mobile transactions. Lots of hotel groups and airline companies have built mobile apps allowing instant room or ticket booking and I love that. I always book hotels through mobile at the last minute and have no problem continuing doing so. However, not all brands are applicable in mobile commerce.

Over 80 percent of online buyers still hesitate to finish their purchase via their handsets. These online buyers browse, research, and compare prices via mobile devices. Some of them would even make sure they save the products in their shopping carts except to leave the final confirmation step back on the big screen desktop or laptop. Less than four out of 100 mobile Internet users have paid their purchases via mobile payment by June 2012, pretty much delivers the message. Unlike the U.S., I don’t think Chinese online buyers are worried about privacy issues or online security but mainly because most online banking programs do not support mobile interface. Until most banks which have sorted out their payment gateway with Alipay, our hands are tied.

Does it mean no mobile marketing would work in China?

I genuinely believe mobile is a very effective marketing tool. We need to think on behalf of our consumers before ourselves as a brand. When they are interested in engaging with us, how are we visualized in their consumer journey? Do we exist on the results when they search for us? How are consumers experiencing our mobile assets? More important – can they respond to our communication via their handsets? Have we given them an access to reach us, a QR code? A web address? A handle on Weibo (microblog)? A text response mechanism or any specific call-to-action?

Always remember the mobile handset is just a device and it’s to our advantage that most of our consumers take this device very personally. They interact on mobile 24/7 so we should definitely leverage it too. It will be our job to create and deliver spot-on communication along with relevant calls-to-action. We need to maximize our brand visibility through their purchase pathway and allow consumers to interact with our brand communication via their very personal devices, at their own will.

Until then, I look forward to seeing more integrated campaigns involving mobile response mechanism in the rest of 2012.

Mobile shopping image on homepage via Shutterstock.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.