American Marketer


Developing a mobile customer engagement plan

November 5, 2012

Scott Gamble is vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data Retail Services


By Scott Gamble

This is a pivotal time for the retail industry. The relationship between consumers and their favorite brands is quickly and irreversibly changing.

Today’s shoppers crave interaction with retailers on their own terms, whenever they choose and wherever they are. In many ways this is a retailer’s dream come true – it is an invitation to be a constant companion, and a chance to get to know customers better than ever before.

That is the promise of easy-to-use, there-when-you-need-it mobile engagement: to delight customers with intuitive, brand-building services that are always at hand.

Mobile marketing represents one of the most interesting, must-respond challenges to retailers in decades: where to begin? We have never gone from “that’s impossible” to “we need to get this done” so quickly.

Closer look at your customers
The need to know your customers does not change. Through consumer insights and proven marketing strategies you can create targeted, branded communications that engage shoppers and drive loyalty. The result: customers that buy more, over a longer period of time.

To generate actionable customer metrics that provide new and better shopping and demographic insights, you will need a marketing plan that serves to forge stronger, longer-lasting relationships. And to do that, you will need a thoughtful, comprehensive mobile engagement strategy.

Beyond the traditional marketing channels and even the traditional plastic credit card channel, it is time to stake out new territory in the digital space, building out programs designed exclusively for mobile devices.

Turning point for customer engagement

Mobile customer engagement, in its many forms, is the new frontier for data gathering, brand building, and customer retention.

It is one thing to talk about the potential of mobile customer engagement, and another to deliver it.

Developing a digital strategy is one of the most daunting tasks facing retailers today. Rapid shopper adoption of the digital-enabled lifestyle is at the core of this opportunity.

Indeed, this is a turning point for the retail industry.

Increasingly, smartphones will replace plastic. Mobile wallets will flourish, and then narrow to a winning few.

As the mobile landscape continues to evolve, retailers must deliver real value to their customers, on their terms and in their new, digital language.

Building solutions: Four critical tactics

The better you understand your customers — what they love, why they buy, and how you can help them — the greater loyalty they will show your brand in return.

Here are four key ideas for developing a successful mobile customer engagement plan:

1. Understand your strategy and segment
Before any marketing solution is developed, digital or otherwise, work hard to understand your objective and the problem you are trying to solve.

Most importantly, get to know the people you are trying to reach: the core audiences, outliers and others. This discovery will feed future recommendations.

2. Develop and learn from prototypes
Different messages will influence different audiences. Consider using focus groups, A-B testing and other methodologies to test and validate solutions.

3. Build metrics into everything
The ability to track customer behavior and activity is crucial to understanding your customers and delivering services that are tailored just for them. Strive to uncover fresh insights that serve evolving strategies.

4. Never rest

Once a mobile solution is created, it must be constantly revisited, revised and improved. This is true for the most popular software and apps, and for all marketing programs — especially mobile solutions.

This is new territory for retailers. Continue to study the tech landscape and refine approaches as customers grow familiar with these platforms, and as the platforms themselves offer new ways to innovate.

Scott Gamble is vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data Retail Services, Columbus, OH. Reach him at