Bill Siwicki of Internet Retailer just published a story about retailer Musician's Friend and their mCommerce strategy. Musician's Friend is unique because they buck the burgeoning trend of outsourcing development of mobile channel strategy and execution to a trusted partner. That's right, Musician’s Friend built all of its mobile capabilities in-house.
It is important to remember that what works for some companies does not work for every company. What a company may gain in operational efficiency and the mirage of cost-cutting by building a homegrown mobile marketing solution it loses out on domain expertise, scalability, flexibility, and support. There are trade offs – sometimes significant trade offs – that are costly.
We all know mobile is becoming an extremely important channel. An eMarketer study released today asked U.S. email users which channel they prefer for online communication, email or text. Email predictably won… only 52%-48%, though. Consumers like texting, and the ability to keep costs down for outbound and inbound text messages, properly manage carrier relationships, manage countless program briefs to maintain good standing with carriers and the FTC, etc., is crucial stuff that that make outsourcing to an established, trusted mobile software partner the right business strategy. And that is just standard SMS programs for retailers. Layer on the complexities of the mobile Web, apps, and mCommerce and the value for engaging a trusted partnership for each of those opportunities within mobile marketing becomes self-evident.
Systems integration is not a deal breaker for companies anymore, either. Ask indicates that engaging a vendor for mCommerce is inconvenient because of the necessary systems integration. Sure, it is inconvenient and costly – she is exactly right. But building a homegrown mobile marketing/mCommerce system still fails to address the area of real need for integration – the data. Like eCommerce, mCommerce is only as effective as the use of data allows. Data integration, either through tracking snippets for behavioral data or a secure API for other data flows, is the foundational component to good mCommerce strategy. Whether an mCommerce message delivery system is built in-house or outsourced, the data still must be integrated. Why not find the right partner who can do both? (Editor’s Note: We obviously think Knotice is great!)
And, if you’re a long time reader of The Lunch Pail, you know our fundamental belief in using one software platform/partner for many direct digital marketing capabilities… namely email, mobile, and dynamic Web content and testing. Good vendors are able to combine multiple functions into one software platform. Fast forward five years from now. Don’t you think it will be strange for an email marketing company to not also do mobile marketing? I do.
Last, mobile marketing is evolving so quickly that any vendor unwilling to adopt the customer-preferred pace of innovation is going to get left behind. Software vendors have the unique ability to add features their customers want. Like any business, keeping the customers happy is a priority. Developing additional features for the platform to keep customers happy is simply the cost of doing business in a rapidly evolving industry. Failing to evolve warrants a hearty slap from Adam Smith’s invisible hand.