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As every marketer knows, the goal is to reach customers with the right offer, at the right time, in the right context.

In theory, this makes perfect sense. In practice though, it’s not as easy to accomplish as we’d like. One major disconnect is the mobile experience. As more and more consumers start to view their mobile devices as a remote control for life, too many brands have been stuck on the sidelines, either underestimating the power of mobile or fearing that mobile messaging might be seen as too intrusive. But customers actually appreciate targeted, useful messaging and if what you’re offering is relevant, users are often eager to opt-in. Marketers simply need to do their part by ensuring that they’re providing value and that they don’t overwhelm their customers with too much, too often.

Despite the hype around marketing via SMS, consumer preference is actually for brand interactions to happen via email, even on mobile. People view text messages as both highly personal and high-priority, primarily reserved for friends and family. And that’s good news for marketers.

First, give your customers great reasons to opt in

Consumers aren’t as keen on sharing their data as they once were, and for good reason. Take location data, for instance. At the start of the decade, Foursquare, among others, provided infrastructure and incentives for users to check in at physical locations. The rewards were more about social capital, personal branding, and bragging rights, rather than monetary, and Foursquare quickly lost momentum with consumers as the risk of sharing their data began to outweigh the benefit.

Foursquare has found new success, however, by shifting their business model toward providing location services and location-based intelligence to businesses, collecting a (excuse my language) crap-ton of data along the way.

Even if your company doesn’t use Foursquare or a similar service, marketers still have access to vast amounts of customer location data. But these days, enticing your users to check in isn’t the only way to collect that data, and when a customer does check in, their incentive is more about convenience and cost savings.

For example, more than a million people have checked in via Marriott’s mobile app because it offers guests the convenience of being able to check in, and even open their rooms, via their mobile phones. Apps from JetBlue, Southwest and many other airlines let travelers check in to flights, review (and sometimes change) their seat assignments, or pre-order an in-flight meal.

For retailers, check-in incentives are primarily financial. Target’s Cartwheel app has garnered more than 25 million users by helping shoppers save anywhere from 5-50% off products, without paper coupons. This year, the retailer rolled Cartwheel functionality into the main Target app, increasing engagement even further by doing a better job of surfacing more personalized recommendations.

Even if your company doesn’t offer a proprietary mobile app, similar incentives can be offered, while collecting location and opt-ins, through social media, your website, and even through your transactional emails.

Then, send relevant offers

Once a customer has shared their location data with a marketer, there is an opportunity to combine that information with other data to craft highly-targeted offers. For instance, when combined with online browsing data and purchase history, location data allows you to provide ‘in-stock at this store’’ information with product recommendations.

Marketers can also use location data to update dynamic email content ‘on open‘, to customize offers and make them specific to that location, i.e. stores, restaurants, cafes, or hotels near you.

Knowing where your customer is when they open your email, and using that information to customize your message, can give your email content a specificity that customers experience as useful, relevant, and personal.

A mutually beneficial relationship

Customers are no longer passive recipients of marketing messages — they now expect value and personalized experiences in return for offering data. It makes sense that if a customer is willing to provide their location data that they should get something in return, whether that’s an easier way to interact directly with your brand, a discount, or personally relevant content.

The common denominator is the customer experience, and more and more of those experiences are happening on mobile devices. By being mobile-aware, marketers can provide exceptional experiences that encourage both data sharing and opt-in. And the smart use of that data will keep customers coming back for more — and checking in when they do.

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