Consumers don't get why brands will spend  lots of money to talk at them with smartphone ads, but yet spend no real money on customer service.  Why talk if you don't listen?

Most days it can be hard for a working professional to take off the "business" hat and approach stats from a true consumer approach. To the unsuspecting American, it sounds great that companies are spending more and more on digital marketing budgets to enhance the user experience, save paper, and increase the focus on continuous innovation in the mobile space.

According to an article written by Mark Walsh for Media Post, Annual digital marketing budgets, on average, amounted to 2.5% of a company's revenue in 2012 and will grow 9% this year. The majority of companies spend between 10% and 50% of their marketing budget on digital efforts, with an average of 25%.

From a consumer perspective, you see all that money being spent and think, "Wow, this 'going mobile' thing sounds pretty good for the economy, and certainly a sign of a stronger marketplace than a year ago!" And, from the consumer facing side of these stats, it's true- the more "screens" that we have to interact with, the more "screens" that marketers need to be present, and prominent.

Back to the marketing professional's point of view, it is stressful trying to put your best foot forward when suddenly you have two paths to walk down at the same time. Public or private, large or a startup, independent or franchised, businesses are all faced with the challenge of how to approach the mobile opportunities ahead.

For a fifth of companies, digital has already been incorporated into each function within marketing broadly, with budgets no longer broken out separately. The Gartner study also made a point to indicate that digital marketing spend is becoming more difficult to estimate as digital and traditional techniques merge. "We expect this trend to continue growth as areas such as second-screen TV, social TV and QR codes integrate with traditional channels," stated the report. This is already apparent considering Macy's new engagement campaign, which has rolled out with mobile touch-points with a traditional media twist.

According to a Mobile Commerce Daily article written by Lauren Johnson in March, Macy's is using a combination of QR codes, SMS and mobile Web as part of its partnership with NBC's "Fashion Star" television show to not only give consumers a chance to enter a sweepstakes, but also build up the retailer's mobile database.

The sweepstakes is part of a bigger campaign from Macy's to connect with TV viewers via their mobile devices this year. "The mobile strategy should be consistent with their overall digital marketing strategy," said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta. "Access to a brand's portal through mobile simply improves the amount of consumer engagement time on the site and allows for better conversion with real time marketing and sales opportunities," she said.

Why, then, is their store feedback survey so arcane?

Users have demonstrated that they prefer mobile for their communications- but they see it as a two way street, where as many businesses are still seeing it as a one-way communication vehicle- talking at their audience, but not remotely prepared to open the conversation up completely.

What does Macy's mobile campaign really say to consumers? Well, it says buy from us and leave us alone. That's the kind of strategy that insurance agencies get "dinged" for in TV commercials all the time.

The obvious response most could argue on behalf of Macy's would be, well, the technology must not quite be there yet for surveys to be totally mobile, so it must be an expensive investment and require a long transition project.

However, that doesn't mean that's true. For example, systems like ours here at On The Spot are built to run mobile surveys- with user experience as the focus. Surveys like ours cost around $2/day and can be accessed via SMS text, QR codes and mobile web. In fact, two in five companies say they are realizing savings from digital marketing compared to traditional methods(,) according to Gartner.

Sure, many consumers may not yet realize how readily accessible this technology is to businesses, but soon they will, and they will realize where their retailers place their digital budgets- and more importantly, where they don't.

According to Gartner, "Reinvesting savings into digital marketing activities is a smart move. And it's a relatively new activity in a corporate culture where technology has primarily been used in recent years to cut costs." So, the test is where you will put your cost savings to good use. The question is, will you fill an existing void in your mobile strategy mix, or continue to spend your budget on strictly sales campaigns?

This new digitally enlightened consumer is now able to see right through a company's social media façade. They still agree that Facebook is a nice tool for people to share their thoughts, but everyone is now wiser about its actual capabilities for connection within the company hierarchy.

About a third (34%) of businesses went outside for help in managing their presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. So, it's not really enough to tell people to share their opinions on Facebook- they know it's not going to get to someone in operations who actually could fix the mislabeled sale items that same day. There's no chance for the company to make any actionable use of the data they receive through Facebook.

Macy's would be able to get away with ignoring the location-specific importance of their customers' opinions if they had not already proven in another campaign this past year that they have the means to be location-specific and relevant to consumers at the store level when they want consumers to buy something.

According to Johnson's Mobile Commerce Daily article, the retailer enhanced its iPhone app with Black Friday-specific features that were based on a consumer's local store. Via the app, consumers were able to find Black Friday specials, create shopping lists and pinpoint where a special can be found in a local store.

So, let's assume for a minute that Macy's just isn't aware that their customer engagement strategies lack, well, engagement. Let's assume with a sub-par customer feedback strategy, Macy's is also stuck with minimal insight from real consumers and doesn't "see" that their mobile strategy really comes off as being a one-sided approach to customer engagement.

Think about your own company for a moment- do you emphasize customer loyalty? Do you think a company can get too "big" to care about loyalty?

Hopefully, you'd disagree with the latter statement, since this is one area where we all know there is a payout for "buying in" to a strong loyalty strategy.

According to Ms. Troutman in her statement in Mobile Commerce Daily, "Loyalty programs are a valid and significant method of increasing the average ticket and shop frequency. The use of mobile in this process with all of the unique benefits will improve customer engagement(,)", she continued. "The key is how a brand harmonizes loyalty with offers."

That's about as clear and simple as it can get, but I challenge you to really dwell on that last sentence as you think about the decisions you make about using mobile in your everyday arsenal of customer communication and loyalty programs.

When it comes to mobile, the determining factor that will either elevate or depreciate a brand's overall digital image, is how well the brand is able to harmonize their loyalty reinforcement efforts along with their sales promotion offers.

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