Mobile is the New Cilantro

Posted by on March 26th, 2015

Mobile MarketingIn the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s, cilantro, a previously little-used herb, became the trendy haute cuisine item, to the point that seemingly every restaurant had to have cilantro on practically everything. After a while sun-dried tomatoes became the new trend, then superfruits, then green tea, dark chocolate, fresh ginger and now kale. Turns out chefs are a lot like marketers. We like the trendy, new thing.

For a while now, the trendy new channel in marketing has been mobile. As affiliate marketing, RSS and pay-per-click once were, now it’s mobile marketing. The phrase, “We need to develop a mobile strategy” is to 2014-5 what, “We need to work on our SEO” was to 2010.

However as mobile devices become faster and more powerful, and PCs become more touch, app and user-friendly, the line between desktops and mobile devices gets blurrier every year. Which means for all intents and purposes, you don’t need to develop a mobile strategy – you already have one. It’s just a matter of recognizing it as such.

The vast majority of marketing-related activity on mobile devices isn’t mobile-specific anymore, because virtually every digital communication channel has evolved into a mobile channel. In other words, it’s time to stop thinking of mobile as a separate channel to deliver messages and recognize it as the new norm in which people are consuming content.

Consider this – a study released in Spring 2014 showed that 66% of emails were opened on a mobile device, which is  nearly a 40% increase over the prior year.1 And that’s all the more impressive when put into the context that 78% of smartphone users use their device for email, by far the most popular use for a smartphone.2 Email is now a mobile channel.

But what about good old-fashioned search engines? It turns out that while more than half of all searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo among others are done on mobile devices. Furthermore,  a full 4 out 5 consumers conduct local searches on a mobile device.3 So if you’ve got a brick and mortar location you’d like to drive traffic to, you’re 4 times more likely to reach those consumers on a mobile device.

Video? YouTube reported in 2014 that over 50% of videos viewed were on a mobile device4, a statistic that will only grow as most new smartphones come preloaded with the YouTube app. So like email, video content consumption is a mobile channel.

The bottom line is that traditional outbound marketing channels (email, video etc) are becoming primarily received and consumed via mobile devices. It’s time we stopped thinking of mobile as a separate, meek channel for simple SMS/MMS text messaging and started treating it as the new sandbox. Because it is. So what does this mean? It means we start with tailoring communications efforts to the mobile viewer first, and a desktop viewer second.

Responsive Design – Life on the internet moves pretty quickly. Just a few short years ago, an entire industry of mobile web designers cropped up, touting the benefits of “m.” and “.mobi” mobile sites, feature-poor mirrors of your current site built for your smartphone’s smaller screen and more limited capabilities.

Nowadays, the internet has evolved past the need to treat smartphones as lesser devices than desktops. Mobile sites are becoming more and more a thing of the past in favor of responsive designed websites – websites that will reformat themselves to fit your device, screen and platform and improve the customer experience.  If your website and emails aren’t responsively designed, you’re going to have a harder time reaching and keeping the attention of your hard-earned customers.

Apps > Mobile Sites – A mobile site is still a better experience than having to pinch and drag your desktop website on a four inch screen, but ultimately, the best mobile experience for consumers is often an app. If your business’ relationship with a customer is transactional in nature, relatively frequent and important enough to a consumer to be a bookmark, it’ll probably be important enough for them to download your app.

Apps increase top of mind awareness by occupying a share of a very limited amount of real estate on a consumer’s screen. They allow for more direct communication through push notifications. And, they increase customer stickiness by making transactions easier and quicker.

Analytics – Being aware of what devices your customers are opening your emails and clicking through to your website on is vital to knowing how to speak to them. Knowing if your customers use an iPhone or an Android, whether they prefer the Gmail app or to open it within a browser, whether people using a tablet are more or less likely to open your email or bounce from your site – all of this is our customers telling us how they’d like us to speak to them.

Testing – All of the analytics and message crafting in the world isn’t going to make a difference if your customer can’t read your email or website. Between major email service providers, browsers, apps and devices with varying screen sizes and operating systems, there are literally hundreds of ways customers can consume your message.

Testing your emails before they go out will assure maximum deliverability of your messages and that, when received, they will have the look and feel you intended.

Mobile is an engaging and viable method of marketing to our clients and prospects, even more so when we recognize it’s full potential. Because when you get right down to it, it wasn’t the cilantro we came for in the first place. We just wanted better tacos.



2. Always Connected How Smartphones And Social Keep Us Engaged An IDC Research Report, Sponsored By Facebook




Better Isn’t Always Best

Posted by on March 24th, 2015

Marketing for FIsIt’s an almost comical stereotypical battle, the aggressive financial institution marketer who only cares about response rate versus the conservative credit manager only wanting to target top quality loans. This can lead to the assumption that the marketer doesn’t care whether the loans fund, but only that they generate applications.

Clearly a marketer has to support his/her financial institution’s loan goals, and applications don’t accomplish that, only funded loans do. So if both the marketer and lending managers have the same goal, why are their approaches so different? Yes, underwriters understandably tend to be more risk adverse and thus are comforted by the highest quality loan applications, but there’s a more important reason marketers try to loosen the requirements — Premium credit consumers tend to not respond and relying on them to do so only hurts the financial institution’s chance of meeting its loan goals.

Recently, I saw an offer from a local financial institution — “Receive $500 – $1200 (1% back) when refinancing an auto loan.” That means that particular offer was valid for auto loan amounts from $50k – $120,000. Almost weekly, I’m involved in creating auto refinancing campaigns for clients, and I can count on one hand the number of consumers who refinanced based on these types of offers whose current auto balance was much over $40k regardless of how much the financial institution could save them. The reality is simple — If consumers cared enough about their monthly payment to refinance to save, they wouldn’t have purchased and financed a vehicle that costly in the first place. I can picture the lending team telling marketing that they should target larger loans, but marketers know those consumers aren’t responders, and you can’t fund loans that haven’t been applied for.

So let’s give the marketers a little extra credit. When they suggest targeting less than premium credit, they aren’t trying to inflate meaningless response rates. They truly understand what’s needed to drive total new loan volume and at a solid margin.


Consumer Use of Mobile Banking is on the Rise

Posted by on March 20th, 2015

Mobile Banking
Mobile Banking Trends

Mobile banking is becoming increasingly more important to banking consumers, and the trend is expected to continue over the next several years. According to ATH Power Consulting, mobile banking is becoming imperative, because nearly eight in 10 banking customers polled in North America said mobile banking was important to some extent.1 Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting backed up this statement stating that 52% of consumers are doing more mobile banking than two years ago, with 55% accessing mobile banking 2-3 times a week.1

While online banking is still the number one banking feature among respondents (91%) followed by online bill paying (63%), mobile banking is at number three (45%) and quickly gaining ground as consumers plan to shift more banking activity to mobile in the coming years. This generation of banking customers expects that features and functions be integrated on every device that they own from smart phones to tablets. Not only should all features be available, but they expect them to be easy to use and secure.2

Mobile Devices

Smartphone remains the dominant device used for mobile banking, with 84% of mobile bankers expecting to buy a smartphone in the next 24 months. Tablets however are not as widely used for mobile banking as they are considered toys in the minds of many consumers. 68% of respondents do not use their tablets for mobile banking today. But look out for the Phablets (a smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer) The industry expects significant growth in phablet use for mobile banking over the next 24 months and this growth will be seen across demographics.3

Most Popular Mobile Banking Activities

According to a national retail banking study by Market Force in November 2014, the primary mobile banking activities include:4

  • Checking their balances (84%),
  • Checking their statements (62%),
  • Transferring funds (57%),
  • Depositing funds (54%),
  • Using the quick-check balance feature (43%),
  • Paying bills (40%)
  • Finding an ATM or branch (35%).


So what can financial institutions do to leverage this mobile banking growth trend?

  • Continue to maintain a high focus on online banking and expand current offerings to include mobile.
  • Plan for larger devices and develop a strategy that enhances the customer experience for consumers with larger screens.
  • Pursue a digital ominichannel approach that provides consumers consistent features and functions across all devices.



ORM – It’s Official

Posted by on March 12th, 2015

The significance “digital” has played on a consumer’s reaction to a brand, product or service has exponentially increased as review sites and channels of communication remain just a click away. I previously wrote about reputation management, the strategic method of monitoring your brand’s reputation by keeping up with customer reviews, quickly addressing any negative issues a customer may have and ensuring customer satisfaction through customer feedback solutions, such as surveys. So, what has changed in the last few months that made me want to write about this topic again? Online Reputation Management (ORM).

Exceptional customer service is at the forefront of many organization’s business practices. A local small business may rely on friendly employees to make each customer that walks through its door feels welcome and appreciated. But, what happens when a potential customer catches this employee on an off day? When these situations occur, disgruntled customers can virtually attack this business through not just one, but at least ten different channels. No matter how many good reviews an organization or business may have, a bad review could negate that feedback twofold.

What does this mean for organizations that pride themselves on their customer-centric business practices? It means that they should plan for the random case of “bad press” and incorporate a pre-emptive online reputation management plan.

Establishing a team of individuals who are well-versed in consumer opinions and behaviors is the first step to putting a pre-emptive online reputation management plan in place. These individuals can come up with theoretical situations that could potentially harm a business’ reputation. Pro-actively speculating and solving a potential negative interaction between a consumer and organization can ensure a crisis is quickly averted. Should an issue arise that has already been discussed, an organization could respond to the problem with a well-rehearsed solution.

Just as important as planning for a hypothetical situation, team members should continuously monitor situations in which other organizations have dealt with negative press. Breaking down what happened, step-by-step, and determining what could have been avoided while devising solutions to rectify the problem will help an organization should a similar problem arise.

Many businesses use customer-centric best practices to ensure positive feedback and stellar reviews. Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, no organization is invincible to the virtual customer backlash that can follow a negative interaction. Organizations should pro-actively think about any mishap that could occur and put a precautionary plan in place. Should an issue arise, organizations should already be prepared for the unexpected and ready to squash any potential bad press.


Canadian Anti-Spam Law Expert Talks CASL

Posted by on March 12th, 2015


Interview with Shaun Brown, Canadian lawyer practicing at nNovation LLP and Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) expert

These are the opinions of the guest and not that of Harland Clarke Digital. This does not serve as legal advice and is informational only. Facts and circumstances vary, so please seek the advice of counsel on the topics discussed below if you have further questions. 

HCD: In the lead up to CASL’s final form, what surprised you most about the Canadian government’s approach to promulgating this law?

SB: The fact that it happened at all. It was a big undertaking, and it’s a fairly aggressive approach. When you look at federal privacy legislation, which has been in place for almost 15 years, the government has been working since 2006 to make relatively minor amendments to that law, and it still hasn’t happened.

In the same time period, CASL was drafted from scratch, addressing a variety of issues, and although it draws on the experiences from other countries, it was largely new. So, I think the most surprising thing was the government having the energy to draft and get CASL through the legislative process.

HCD: What do you consider to be CASL’s strengths as an anti-spam law?

SB: In many ways, the government tried to capture and reflect industry best practices.

HCD: Conversely, what are its weaknesses?

SB: CASL is very prescriptive. It’s a very detailed set of rules for sending email. While spam and malware can bring huge problems/threats, the vast majority of businesses are doing things right, and the emails they send aren’t a huge problem for most consumers. So, we have ended up with a large number of rules, in some cases redundant/overlapping to other laws, which now causes challenges for compliance. For example, there are various requirements for capturing opt-in consent, such as the requirement to provide more specific contact information and telling a person he/she can unsubscribe — these things can be a hassle.

HCD: Based on your dialogue with industries and businesses, what are the top misconceptions/questions you heard prior to CASL’s launch?

SB: A lot of people weren’t aware of allowances to transition existing databases, such as the transition provision for extending the time periods for implied consent, and the ability to grandfather those with existing consent obtained in compliance with privacy legislation.

Also, some didn’t understand the breadth of some of the implied consent provisions, specifically within the B2B space. For example, consent can be implied if someone gives you his/her email address, or if he/she conspicuously publishes his/her email address, so long as the information you send is relevant to what the recipient does in his/her business capacity. This can be quite helpful for B2B marketing where you have to essentially “cold call” people by email, which is less appropriate in B2C context.

Another example was how Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was going to enforce the legislation. With penalties of up to $10 million per violation, there was a lot of concern that the CRTC would begin penalizing everyone for minor violations. This hasn’t been the case.

HCD: What are the top misconceptions/questions you heard since CASL’s launch?

SB: Generally the same as pre-launch, but the computer program rules in CASL went into force the week of Jan. 12 of this year. So for some businesses, the focus has moved to these rules, which are potentially more complicated as are the involved scenarios. The software portion of CASL does not impact as many businesses, whereas the anti-spam portions apply to anyone doing email marketing.

The computer rules don’t apply as broadly as a lot of people think at first glance. CASL only applies when a business is installing software on someone else’s computer, not self-installed software. A large number of software programs are self-installed, i.e., apps.

HCD: We are six months post-CASL’s official start date (7/1/14). What did you anticipate we’d be experiencing at this point?

SB: I thought we might see a few published enforcement actions by now, although I knew it would take some time. The fact that we haven’t seen anything yet is not a bad thing.

This indicates, to me, that the CRTC investigations are complex, and they’re not coming out looking to tag some bigger business with “borderline” enforcement issues. This suggests that they are looking at the worst behavior going on, and it’s complex with multiple levels and players potentially in various countries.

Of course that is largely speculative at this point. There were comments pre-launch that maybe this was going to dramatically change email marketing, and people weren’t going to use email any more. I haven’t seen any indication of that.

HCD: Related to that, what has actually transpired related to CASL enforcement thus far?

SB: The indications, so far, are that the CRTC is going to tend to be reasonable, and for the time being focus on the worst actors causing actual harm to consumers.

HCD: Looking ahead, what do you anticipate we’ll have seen occur when we reach the first anniversary of CASL’s launch?

SB: More of the same. We could see some enforcement actions based on my assumptions about the type of situations being investigated. I don’t know if that’s going to result in guidance to the average email marketer however.

For example, there are outstanding questions about what constitutes a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) vs. a transactional message. I don’t know if the CRTC is focusing on those types of specific questions/scenarios. I don’t think they’re focused on things that impact the day-to-day reality of marketers. I could be wrong, but don’t expect to see anything that will dramatically impact what email marketers are doing in the next six months.

Shaun, I want to thank you for taking some time to talk with me and share your thoughts on CASL with the readers of Digital Spin.

UPDATE: Following my interview with Shaun, the first CASL enforcement has coincidentally occurred.

CRTC Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer issues $1.1 million penalty to Compu-Finder for spamming Canadians