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A century old model for the mobile generation

A century old model for the mobile generation

A document forged over a hundred years ago provides the basis for a sound strategy to manage today’s tools in the workplace.

Smart phones and tablets have become hot items for today’s tech-savvy consumers. The consumer technology market is on the move again, and smart business leaders are hot on their trail with a growing lineup of mobile applications and services. Over time not all of these offerings will be successful. If the dotcom crash of the late 1990s has taught us anything, it is that leading edge technology will inevitably fail if it is not backed by a sound business strategy. Ten years ago it would have been hard to imagine how far the online market could have progressed. E-commerce and web services are now both commonplace and profitable. Today, mobile technology is a top of mind issue for consumers. It has become the hot discussion topic at offices and dinner tables. When Woolworths recently released its iPhone app, 400,000 Australians are reported to have downloaded the app in just two weeks.

Survey data supports this growing fascination with mobile. A survey recently released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that by the end of 2010, 23 percent of Australians aged 14 and over accessed the internet via a mobile phone. This is up from 15 percent the previous year. With an increasingly competitive market and new growth in tablet sales, Australian mobile penetration is set to grow even further through 2011.

Ovum’s own analysis and interviews with corporate executives, support these findings. Indeed CIOs are finding themselves under pressure from all directions. Customers are looking for new, value added mobile services. Staff are demanding connectivity to support the latest devices through BYO technology. Senior executives are turning their backs on the mountains of paper produced for committee meetings, opting for more functional and portable tablet devices such as iPads.

New services need new thinking, but new thinking must still be built on sound business fundamentals. Typically, each organisation will have its own methodology for sales and marketing, but sometimes their sophistication can work against new technologies, that do not quite fit traditional rules. So let’s go back to basics.

Most of today’s sales and marketing strategies have their roots in the work of E St Elmo Lewis who developed the AIDA model in 1898. Today, Lewis’ AIDA model can still provide a solid generic basis for linking a company’s mobile strategy to its corporate sales and marketing strategy.

AIDA outlines the following universal steps necessary for successful customer engagement:

  • Awareness – Generally attracting the attention of the customer towards the company or solution set
  • Interest – Building specific interest based on the advantages and benefits of the solution, rather than just its features and functions
  • Desire – Convincing the customer that their needs will be satisfied by this product or service
  • Action – Engaging the customer to take some action such as purchasing a product
  • Satisfaction – This step was added at a later time to describe how loyal customers can themselves become advocates, telling their friends about their successful outcome.

The problem with many of today’s mobile applications is that their success is often measured only by the number of app downloads. At best, this approach might build brand awareness (AIDA Step 1), but deliver few real outcomes for the company. App download rate is therefore a very poor measure of success in any mobile strategy.

Notwithstanding these problems, there are many good examples where businesses have got it right. Recent supermarket apps such as Woolworths, satisfy the AIDA criteria. These apps have been designed to drive both online and personal shopping channels, as well as providing valuable customer profile data to support further customisation of products and services. Many of the Australian banking apps have been designed to satisfy the criteria by mimicking existing online banking systems that are already highly successful. New banking systems are now appearing in a competitive market. The Commonwealth Bank’s recently released property guide app combines existing data sources together with augmented reality to guide customers through real estate selection and toward Commonwealth’s product offerings.

Lewis’ AIDA model also demonstrates the power of social networking in turbocharging the sales process. Social networking provides satisfied customers with a ready-made online forum for telling their friends about a successful encounter (AIDA Step 5). Mobile technology significantly enhances the potential benefits of social networking by allowing satisfied clients to report on their experience while they are still fresh from the sales encounter.

Lewis’ AIDA model and its derivatives have certainly stood the test of time for more than 100 years. However in the future, mobile technologies and social networking might finally spell the end to this venerable model. Social networking is beginning to redefine the sales process more in terms of an ongoing conversation rather than as discrete transactions. Tomorrow’s marketing rules might be very different from what we see today.

Kevin Noonan is research director at Ovum.

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