What’s the best way to approach mobile marketing? The answer is simple: put yourself in a customer’s shoes.

Before making any decision about marketing, messaging, promotions or brand engagement, look at the task from your customer’s point of view first. Take off your marketing hat, and step into your customers’ shoes instead. View the interaction or campaign as the shopper, not the marketer – the recipient, not the sender.

The marketers behind successful brands and mobile apps understand their customers intuitively. They become the customer, they understand the shopper journey, they recognize and respect all customer interaction channels, and they market to their customers accordingly.

Mobile’s Role in the Bigger Customer Picture

A key component of “being your customer” involves embracing consumers’ reliance on smartphones and apps for nearly everything in their lives. For marketers, this is both compelling and equally challenging:

  • Consumers check their smartphones on average 85 times a day, totaling about 5 hours browsing the web and apps, according to a UK study.
  • Most smartphone interactions occur in quick bursts of less than 30 seconds (same study) – a brief window of opportunity for marketers to capture customers’ attention and keep them engaged.
  • May 2015 marked the first time that consumers relied more on smartphones than desktops for Internet searches (thanks, Google), and July 2016 comScore data finds that 50% of Americans’ time online is now spent with smartphone apps

What’s critical for marketers about the smartphone’s influence is the customers’ overall experience – not just their mobile behaviors.

Yes, customers today are increasingly “mobile-first” individuals who rely on smartphones for just about everything. In fact, they’re so reliant on mobile connectivity that they freak out momentarily if they can’t find their smartphone (“It was just here…did I lose it? My entire LIFE is in that phone!!”)

But as customers, they also shop in brick-and-mortar stores. They check email regularly and join loyalty programs. When they have problems, they contact customer service or tech support. And they still tend to purchase products from websites because doing so is usually easier and more convenient than buying on mobile screens or apps. According to eMarketer, mobile commerce is growing but still only represents 32% of U.S. retail ecommerce and only 2.6% of total retail sales (2016).

No Shopper is “Mobile-Only,” and Marketing Shouldn’t Be, Either

It’s critical for today’s marketers to approach the craft of mobile marketing guided by a big-picture view of customer understanding and experience – one that embraces the mobile channel and all others. Among key mobile marketing principles to keep in mind:

  • The mobile environment is unique, but it is not the only marketing channel. Legacy thinking or experiences with other forms of marketing might not transfer well to the mobile marketplace.
  • “Mobile-first” or “mobile-centric” does not mean “mobile-only.” Consumers still engage with brands in many ways other than their smartphones.
  • Mobile marketing must be part of a broader customer experience that involves multiple touch points and non-mobile channels as well. Marketers need tools and platforms that follow and connect the customer across desktop, web, mobile web, call-center, in-store and app – and rely on integrated, native data that flows back and forth among channels to target and trigger interactions that are relevant, timely and personal.
  • Mobile can play a role as a great connector, but it’s still just one of numerous ways to connect.

Seemingly every activity today is shifting toward smartphones, smaller screens and mobile connections. But there’s also still a great big world out there, full of live customers and shoppers waiting for real live brand experiences. They just happen to be carrying smartphones most of them time.

Mobile marketers must venture into that multi-channel, experiential world and all of its challenges. And they must be armed with a big-picture customer view and an enlightened understanding of how, when and where customers work, think, shop and buy.

Once marketers have slipped into their customers’ shoes, they’ll have a much better sense of where the mobile marketing path leads next.