If you’ve binge watched "Friends" reruns on Netflix lately, you’ve probably noticed some differences between now and the height of the 90s. Yes, the men were far less beardy, pour-over single origin coffee hadn’t made its mark on the Central Perk menu, and Donald Trump was just the brunt of a fashion joke.
But the oddest difference between today and those simpler times? The eerie lack of smartphones. Just watch Monica and Rachel talk, face to face, instead of quibbling over dinner plans via text. That just seems…weird.
These days, 4 in 10 millennials say they spend more time on their phones than they do engaging in real-life conversations with parents, friends, and even partners. The average millennial checks his or her phone a whopping 157 times per day—five times the rate of older users.
So if you want to capture attention, you’ve got to reach your customers where they are—buried deep inside their phones.
Mobile marketing done right has a pretty unique and powerful perk: Unlike television campaigns that are typically consumed after work hours and on the couch, mobile campaigns can engage with potential customers anywhere they are and during the most motivated parts of the day—when they’re more likely to follow up with your brand on their desktops, or even drop by your bricks-and-mortar.
Here are six strategies to help your brand engage with millennials through mobile:
1. Match the content to the channel
Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat—where to start? Begin by pairing your message with the appropriate channel. If you’re looking to hire, consider using LinkedIn, a popular professional platform. Interested in selling a consumer product? Facebook is a better avenue to reach a more general audience. Once you’ve found the right platform for your message, really dig in to understand the kind of content that works best. Phillip Alexeev, online marketing expert and head of growth at the 3-D and virtual reality platform Sketchfab, says to ask yourself, “What do I actually have to do to come across the way I intended and actually achieve my purpose?”
Also, think about how your ad or content will be consumed. Make sure your landing page and online shopping cart are mobile-optimized, and that any video content also makes sense without audio (remember, many users access their phones on a crowded commuter train, for example).
2. Text, cautiously
If reach is what you’re after, consider Short Message Service (SMS), which sends a text message directly to a consumer’s smartphone. Since text messaging open rates are around 98 percent, this can be a great way to reach almost all your customers immediately.
But beware—there’s as much risk as opportunity here. Many consumers, particularly authenticity-obsessed millennials, could sour on a brand forever if they perceive the SMS as spam. Avoid this pitfall by offering a valuable promotion, keeping the correspondence brief and to the point, and making the promotion exclusive (VIPs only). Include a clear call-to-action (Call now!), a short time frame to motivate your user (Valid until midnight!), and make sure your brand is mentioned. Short and sweet.
3. Fight friction by demonstrating value
Millennials don’t shop the way their moms do. They’ll wait for a sale rather than shop for convenience (unless they desperately need toilet paper). Ads mean little to them unless they respect and like the brand. How do you alleviate this unusual friction? Create and distribute quality content, including blog posts, video content, and email newsletters. Keep the content short, but make it valuable to the consumer. For instance, a café owner might produce a short video that demonstrates how to create a perfect pour-over coffee—ideal for mobile users to view and then pass along to friends.
Include a promotion, event teaser, or other incentives to funnel your users toward their desktops, or an in-store visit for more engagement with your brand and its offerings. “The better the content coming from your brand, the more trust you build with your audience,” says Alexeev.
4. Experiment with Snapchat
One of the most popular platforms among millennials is Snapchat, where 7 out of 10 users are millennials. On Snapchat, users share “snaps”—images or 10-second videos that disappear after a few moments. They can also create a series of microcontent called a Snapchat Story that is viewable for 24 hours. Content can be shared among friends within the platform.
Small businesses have capitalized on the momentary nature of Snapchat by snapping flash coupons, product demos, or teasers for an upcoming event. Snapchat can also be used alongside other social media and mobile campaigns as a way to build brand equity. Millennials are notoriously resistant to the hard sell, but campaigns posting content that’s fun and genuine can help build trust in the brand, which can later convert to sales.
“That’s a great way to get your brand presence out there and elicit a flow where potentially someone discovers your brand on Snapchat and then goes online to research it,” says Alexeev.
5. Go hyperlocal
Advertisers can take advantage of the built-in GPS and location-sharing capabilities of smartphones to send promotions to users in a given geographic area. This kind of location-based advertising is a popular tool that contributed to a 64 percent increase in average mobile conversion rates compared with average desktop rates.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google allow advertisers to purchase geo-aware ads like coupons for customers located within a five-mile radius of a store, for example. Similarly, geo-fencing allows advertisers to target a location that’s not necessarily their own business and place ads to consumers in that area. For instance, a sneaker store might geo-fence around the local gym. Advertisers can even directly take on their competitors with location-based advertising around a rival’s bricks-and-mortar. This strategy, known as geo-conquesting, poaches customers with better deals and promotions and appears to be successful when used alongside more traditional location-based advertising.
6. Augmented and virtual reality—the future of mobile marketing
The wild success of 2016’s augmented reality game Pokemon Go! (downloaded more than 15 million times) has inspired mobile marketing. Pokemon Go! superimposed images of cartoon Pokemon characters on the viewing screens of mobile devices so that the cartoons appeared to exist in the real world. Bricks-and-mortar brands were able to bring foot traffic into their stores if they happened to be near a Pokemon hotspot. Savvy business owners ran promotions for Pokemon players at the height of the craze.
“With the advent of augmented and virtual reality, mobile marketing will once again flip,” Alexeev says. “It’s going to be interesting because augmented reality will be the overlay on top of life that can lead to a lot of this physical or transactional behavior. And within virtual reality, advertising itself will become more immersive because it's not just a screen, this is your entire world.”
Bottom line? Millennials live on mobile, so your brand should, too. Keep on top of popular and emerging platforms to figure out how best to deliver your message to consumers. Consider how to make your message micro as best fits the mobile medium; and make your content valuable, unique, and genuine.
Looking ahead, emerging technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality promise to splinter mobile marketing into more specialized sectors, and the challenge for small businesses will be how to leverage these high-tech platforms in an affordable DIY way. Creativity will be key. The good news is that millennials don’t want polish. They want authenticity. So whatever you do with your mobile marketing, make sure it’s real.