Which digital channel has the brightest future for business?

Shift 2016, a conference held in San Francisco that focuses on digital disruptions in various industries, invited M&C Saatchi Mobile’s very own VP of Strategy, Gabriel Cheng, to defend mobile’s future.

Gabriel Cheng had five minutes to explain the fundamentals of mobile strategy, its opportunities for business growth and it’s advantages versus other digital platforms such as email, video, social media and augmented reality.

Here is a short summary of the most important strengths of mobile as well as it’s competitors so that you can decide for yourself which platform has the best future.

Social Media

With large consumer platforms such as Facebook (1.59 billion active users), Instagram (400 million active users) or Twitter (320 million active users) one could argue that social media is the place to be for all businesses in 2017. Consumer presence on these platforms is evident however is this the most appropriate platform to interact with and engage consumers?

According to Global Web Index Q1 2016, 44% of Instagram users tend to buy the brands they see advertised on Instagram meaning that brands have already been able to engage with consumers through this platform which gives hope of a bright future.

There is a real opportunity for brands to grow their strategy and increase this percentage within Instagram and other social media platforms due to various factors:

  1. Agile platform structure: The particular strength of social media channels is their ability to easily adapt their platforms to consumer needs and trends. For example this month Instagram released Instagram stories, a feature within the app that allows for people to upload ephemeral videos similar to Snapchat.This feature created new opportunities for brands to deliver more spontaneous content, humanizing brands and creating stronger relevance with their audiences. These constant upgrades and new features provide a plethora of opportunities for brands to re-invent themselves with their consumers.
  2. Personalized content: All social media platforms allow for consumers to personalize their accounts meaning which in turn means that there is a large amount of data available on the platform to allow brands to target specific audiences.This is advantageous for brands because it allows them to ensure they are reaching the right audience however various platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are also extremely private about large amounts of data so it is worth keeping in mind the various restrictions.

Video

Video’s greatest advantage goes back to a saying that is as old as time: an image is worth 1000 words. This channel’s future relies upon it’s ability to story tell.

As explained in my previous article, brands need to create an emotional connection with consumers to ensure competitive edge. If used correctly the video channel can create a very emotional connection with consumers through strong storytelling.

Despite this channel’s strength I am not sure it can stand alone and create brand growth without other channels such as social and mobile.. so realistically, can we can speak of video as it’s own channel?

Email

I was surprised to see that this was considered a channel with a brand future of any sort, however the speaker did a great job of pointing out some reassuring facts that demonstrate how email is here to stay!

It’s already so ingrained in our culture: Before the speaker began she asked to see a show of hands of how many people had checked their emails in the last hour.. i’m pretty sure the everyone in the room raised their hand.

This proves that we systematically check our emails for various professional and personal reasons, meaning that the habit of checking our inboxes is already heavily ingrained within us and not changing any time soon.

The only problem I see with this argument is that even if it’s a habit and we are accustomed to receiving various important aspects of our lives through this channel (think flight bookings, hotel bookings, invitations) does this mean it is the best channel to reach a consumer through? How do you circumvent spam boxes?

How do you personalize email marketing? These questions went unanswered meaning that although consumers are comfortable with this channel, we are yet to capitalize on it’s potential, meaning that there is a future of opportunity with email that I hadn’t predicted.

Augmented Reality

Much like innovation, augmented reality was the buzz word of the conference! The recent success of Pokemon Go got us all wondering if there is a huge potential for advertising in upcoming virtual and augmented reality technology. No one has a straight answer for that just yet but the speaker defending augmented reality made various good points.

  1. Next level consumer engagement: Obviously augmented reality offers an incredible consumer experience where they can have a one on one interaction with a brand on their own time. This creates valuable situations where brands can create inject a fun and playful aspect to a mundane product.
  2. Novelty: This point can be seen as an advantage and a disadvantage. The novelty of this channel can create enormous amounts of interest and encourage consumers to engage more because it’s new and exciting.This is also a downfall because we are not too sure how to approach this channel and it’s limits, does this mean that it can only be used on mobile? The above question brings me to our last point, the importance of mobile.

Mobile

The first and most important point about mobile is that it facilitates and empowers all of the above channels. Global Web Index indicates that most of the above channels are consistently mostly accessed through mobile:

  • Video: 87% of YouTube viewers access this channel via mobile.
  • Social: 43% of Facebook users and 73% of Instagram users mainly access these channels through their mobile platforms.
  • Email: 96% of consumers claim to access their emails on their phone first.
  • Augmented reality: No figures are out on this yet but I mean just take Pokemon Go, it was only possible to do on your mobile so percentages or not that speaks for mobile’s importance with this channel more than any figure will demonstrate.

Having clarified that none of the other channels can survive or thrive without mobile, let’s have a closer look at the specific mobile traits and advantages.

  1. Reinventing how audiences are defined by their needs : Mobile provides a treasure trove of data that can connect interactions across channels and devices to build a comprehensive view of your customers.To achieve this audience analysis marketers must work towards developing a data infrastructure that unifies your data across all data sources at the user-level. This is critical to enabling intelligence on your customer needs and motivations that can translate into more effective engagement strategies.
  2. Reinventing how consumer needs can be predicted: Data-driven audience insights are only valuable if actionable. Marketers should strive for actionable intelligence that can take behavioral signals and predict consumer needs. Automated marketing with predictive intelligence can then deliver greater relevancy with needs-based messaging.
  3. Reinventing how your brand can meet consumer needs: Communicating a brand promise by filling the funnel with ads is becoming less effective. Rather it’s more about proving it by demonstrating the brand value propositions during key moments of the customer journey. It’s about creating brand experiences that can enhance real world experiences in a way that is relevant to the brand’s value propositions.Brands must treat consumers like customers even before they are actual customers. Essentially having a great customer experience that’s authentic, non-intrusive, and of value is critical at each brand interaction. Moving forward, the importance of building meaningful brand-to-consumer relationships by continuously meeting consumer needs across every stage of the customer life cycle is critical to long term growth and retention.

This point of view summarizes our agency’s overall standpoint on the advantages of mobile. Mobile isn’t just another channel but it’s the platform that enables all other channels to thrive.

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