Seems like old news, right? Mobile has been around for years: It’s no longer emerging—it’s here! Employees and customers expect mobile interaction with organizations and expect to have a consumer-grade experience when doing so. Yet surprisingly few organizations are using mobile to drive engagement effectively. This is borne out by independent research, our own client interactions, and those of other consultant friends in the industry.
Mobile is already in the hands of our target audiences. It’s pretty much on their person at all times. We know this. But consider the facts:
- 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone.
- 80 percent of Americans ages 18-49 have a smartphone (64 percent of all adults).
- 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging—which is more than they use it for calls.+
- 90 percent of text messages are read within the first three minutes, as opposed to email, where only 22 percent are read within the first three minutes. ++
As communicators or marketers, we ignore or underutilize mobile communication at our own peril. Still, despite smartphone technology advances, we continue to encounter organizations that only use mobile for the occasional emergency or crisis notification (school’s closed due to snow—go back to bed, kids)— including those with remote and hourly workers, who aren’t tethered to a computer during the day and to whom mobile may be the only available channel for real-time communication.
The Problem With Mobile-Accessed Intranets
A number of organizations may provide mobile access to the intranet, or other company-secured website or portal through single-sign-on, social opt-in, or other forms of authentication. Intranets and corporate portals keep proprietary and confidential information securely behind the firewall, which broadens the range of content that can be communicated through mobile. Communicators and marketers can link to the mobile-accessed intranet or secure company portal through emails and texts, which employees and customers may access exclusively on their smartphone. Sounds like a great solution for hourly and remote employees—that is, until user-experience is factored in. When it comes to intranets and company portals, the desktop experience doesn’t usually translate to mobile. Too often, mobile intranets and portals are awkwardly designed information dumps, overwhelming users with a menagerie of misplaced images and microscopic text.
Mobile-Based Apps and Microsites
Mobile-based apps and microsites may offer a better alternative for workforce and customer mobile communication, according to Joseph Loya, who discussed a number of effective ways to optimize mobile channels during a recent IABC WestFair event in Stamford, CT. Loya, a former Global Portal & Interactive Technology Leader at Mercer, touched on the following five steps to ensure workforce and customer engagement through mobile communication:
- Determine Accessibility
Digital/online communications are no longer limited to employees with desktop access to the organizational intranet. Most employees, including hourly employees and their family members, have the ability to receive communications through their smartphones and most others have the ability to receive SMS-text messages through their cell phone. What’s the breakdown at your organization? Determine how many of customers and employees have cell or smartphone access.
- Consider Firewall Implications
Does your organization offer mobile access to the organizational intranet? If so, was your intranet designed for mobile use? How user-friendly is the mobile intranet experience? How effectively are you leveraging this channel? Are employees engaged with it on a daily basis? How about hourly and remote employees? Intranets keep proprietary and confidential information securely behind the firewall. But you should determine which communications need to remain behind the firewall and which do not, including health and wellness insights, employee-branding and employee value proposition communications, which build morale and increase productivity.
- Leverage More Than Crisis Communication
Real-time mobile notifications about emergency weather cancelations are useful, but what else could be accomplished with anytime-and-anywhere mobile access? Think about the ways you could increase employee engagement and productivity through targeted messages to on-the-go employees. Think about the brand experiences you’d like your customers to have, from content that builds top-of-sales-funnel awareness to messages that drive last-stage purchasing decisions. What else could be accomplished through important messaging and notifications that could be picked up whether they were in the office, on a break, traveling, out sick, or out at a meeting?
Loya shared the story of a remote factory worker, who reluctantly agreed to participate in a health screening as part of his company’s health and wellness incentive campaign. Like many other employees, he didn’t pay much attention to the glossy benefits newsletters, but he did pay attention to communications he received on his smartphone. As a result of the screening, the worker learned that he had several life-threatening, but treatable conditions. His doctor wound up treating him for multiple related conditions that most likely saved his life.
- Transcend Text-Based Communication
Higher employee or customer engagement can be achieved through mobile by leveraging your current HR/benefits websites, vendor sites, and print/electronic communications. Text messages can link to stand-alone digital brochures, engaging infographics, newsletters, and videos. They can also increase traffic to specific content featured on existing websites.
- Optimize Mobile With An App or Microsite
According to Loya, organizations can plan for long-term mobile engagement by setting up an opt-in campaign for employees or customers to receive communications on their cell or smartphone. This involves strategy development considerations, such as the appropriate audience, frequency, message, media, and timing; the selection of an SMS provider and the setting up of an SMS account; and the execution of the initial opt-in campaign, using posters, monitor slides, videos, promotional events and online or in-person meetings.
This normally leads to the creation of an initial app or microsite, which may be optimized in one of the following ways:
- Mobile Wallet Card: This app or microsite gives employees and customers a simple app-like microsite, which functions as a convenient, on-the-go directory to websites, apps, and phone numbers for key benefits and HR service providers—even digital ID cards, if available from vendor(s). The Mobile Wallet Card is an easily customized and branded one-stop resource, where each service is only a single click away (password login is required for some apps and websites), including a content management feature enabling easy additions, deletions, and updates.
- Digital Communications for Education, Promotions, and Reference: Apps or microsites offer access to phone-friendly and interactive versions of organizational newsletters, guides, fact sheets, price lists and more, all of which are easily updated and always available.
- Engaging Videos and Infographics: Apps and microsites also offer improved engagement over handbooks, booklets, and PowerPoint, converting these materials into high-impact mobile-optimized experiences that employ video and infographics.
- Updates and notifications: Finally, apps and microsites provide a way for communicators and marketers to send just-in-time reminders and include links to digital brochures, articles, videos, apps, and more.
Tell Me More
Are you curious to know how mobile apps and microsites might help your organization? Please feel to share your impressions in the comments section below. We need each other, even as the communication and marketing professions continue to evolve at dizzying speeds. Let’s share and try to figure this out together. For more information or questions on mobile apps and microsites, Joe Loya can be reached at Payne Road Communications: Joseph.Loya@PayneRoad.com or by phone at 203.470.7999.
To view a live demo of the Mobile Wallet Card Loya’s firm built with partner Peter Datillo from Dakota Design, you can Text “Easy” to 31996. Then you’ll receive a text on your smartphone containing a link to the Mobile Wallet Card live demo. Check it out, it’s pretty cool.
If you’re in the Westchester County, NY or Fairfield County, CT area, visit IABC WestFair to learn about future programming events.
+ Pew Research Center, April 2015. “The Smartphone Difference” available at www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/
++ Source: mobileSQUARED, 2010.
Photo Cred: Jordan Mcqueen, Matthew Wiebe