Going Mobile: How Smartphones are Changing the Way Brand Loyalty Works

Consumer loyalty is changing because of mobile

Businesses can no longer afford to be having speculative conversations about mobile. Do we need to be worrying about it? Is it worth targeting users on mobile? Do websites need to be optimised for different devices? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, a big old YES.

It’s essential to not just embrace mobile, but to make it work for you. Particularly when we’re talking about brand loyalty. After all, what is loyalty if not encouraging people to engage with you as regularly as possible? Mobiles are always on, always in the pocket, on the desk, by the bed, or in your customer’s hands (the latest headline-grabbing figure is that we check our phones 76 times a day), giving you endless opportunities to communicate with each other.

Mobile growth

As of October 2016, mobile and tablet web traffic is officially higher than desktops and laptops, with 51% of all webpage visits happening on a mobile. That’s up from 25% just three years ago – and 47% of all traffic is now from smartphones alone.

According to Ofcom stats, as many as 71% of adults in the UK have a smartphone. Further research, broken down by age ranges, has found that, among the 16-24 age group, this number rises to 90%. For the 25-34s, it’s 91%, and for the 35-54s, it’s up to 83%, all incremental rises from the years before. Even older generations are embracing smartphones more and more – as of 2015, 50% of those aged 55-64 and 18% aged 65+ had a smartphone.

There are no dramatic differences across social classes, either – Ipsos’s TechTracker report for Q4 2016 found that those in social grade AB were not significantly more likely to have a smartphone than those in DE. Among young people, those in the lowest social grade were only 3% less likely to have a smartphone, while those aged 35 and up were between 8% and 17% less likely. The only dips of 20% or more taking place were among the over-65s, or women aged 55-64.

So generally speaking, smartphone ownership defies demographic. At this point, just about everyone has one, and they’re getting used a lot – so you really can’t afford to neglect smartphone users!

Responsive experiences

So you have a web presence. People use it to buy things from you, access an account with you, or just look at content that earns you delicious advertising revenue – whatever it is. And it works great. Or, at least, it does on your PC.

Does it look as good on a smartphone? How about on an iPad? Again, it might look fine – but that’s on your premium, big-screen device. Does it still work on smartphones with much smaller screens?

When websites get squashed up to fit on these tiny screens, they’re harder to read, impossible to click on, and basically unusable without a full-size monitor, keyboard and mouse. Much like mobile, the case for responsive web design – websites, apps and content that changes layout to suit the device it’s viewed on – is impossible to ignore.

It’s not that a responsive design is a nice bonus – failing to have one is actively hurting. Statistics from Google show that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and a good chunk of those are heading for competitors instead. That’s not good news for loyalty, by any means!

Responsive designs are all about making sure websites are accessible, easy to use, and attractive on any platform – so there are never any technological barriers to people staying loyal to your brand. As mobile continues to dominate, anyone unable to deliver responsive experiences will be missing out. Better have a look at your mobile site, and get chatting to your technical team if it doesn’t quite work.

 

Apps

We’ve just spent a lot of time talking about websites – but are websites the future after all? For once, we’re not going for a hard “Yes” – here’s where there really is a bit more of a speculation.

When you look at the statistics, it could seem as though apps are the one and only way to go – 90% of online mobile traffic is through apps rather than web browsers. However, it’s really important to keep in mind that that 90% includes Facebook, messaging services, YouTube and gaming – activities such as shopping or using loyalty platforms is included in just the 10% of time that makes up “other activity”.

When it comes to branded apps, research has found that 90% of them earn less than 10,000 downloads, and even big brands like McDonalds and Starbucks have had their fair share of teething problems. But apps can have a massive impact for those that do download them – taking up a constant square of space on someone’s home screen.

Apps are essentially another way of providing a customer reward platform, and one that can be more targeted and streamlined than a webpage. Whether consumers will continue to want to fill their phones with branded apps remains to be seen, but for the time being apps can have a big impact. Starbucks’ loyalty app, for example, increased return visitsby up to 50%.

Social media 

Mobile phones have completely revolutionised social media usage, and the two are now essentially inseparable. Social media, as we’ve mentioned, takes up a big chunk of your customers’ time on their phones.

We’re back to a definite yes once again – social media is ubiquitous, it’s absolutely here to stay, and if you want to engage and inspire loyalty in your customers, you’ll need to be visible on there.

Social media is essential for building relationships and communicating with consumers, an essential part of building up the loyalty that keeps them coming back for more and, in turn, what gets people talking about your brand, effectively becoming brand ambassadors.

It can even turn around a negative first impression – research has found that if you contact customers who have left you a negative review through social media to either solve their problem or address their complaint, 34% will remove their negative review, 33% will leave you a positive review instead, and 18% will give you another chance, becoming a loyal customer.

The statistics on social media engagement may look a bit daunting – for example, when you look at the number of fans a global giant like Coca-Cola has, compared to the number of mentions they get, we’re talking an engagement rate of around 1%. But when your user base is big enough, that single percentage can equate to thousands of people talking about you, spreading your message, and continuing to use your services.

With you all the way 

The most important thing to take away from the rise of mobile is that your customers can essentially reach you at all times now – they don’t have to wait until they’re in your store, reading the right magazine, or sat at their computer. You need to be ready and waiting.

Smartphones means that brand loyalty isn’t a once-a-week/month/year decision, when someone makes their regular choice as to whether to use your services again – it’s a constant journey to communicate, engage, and make sure you’re with people every step of the way.

getting to know your audience

It goes without saying, but knowing your audience inside out is a key part of putting together a kick-ass loyalty programme - after all, if you don't give them what they want, they're going to go elsewhere unfortunately.

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